A Shifting Paradigm And The Real Value-Added

“Most of us are ready to give it our all when we start a job.  We are usually full of ideas for ways to do things better.  We eagerly offer our whole intellectual capacity only to be told that it’s not our job, that it’s been tried before, or that we shouldn’t rock the boat. 

Initiative is viewed with skepticism.  Our suggestions are ignored.  We are told to follow instructions.  Our work is reduced to following a set of prescriptions.  Our creativity and innovations go unappreciated. 

Eventually, we stop trying and just toe the line.  With resignation, we get by.  Too often that’s where the story of our work life ends.” 

-David Marquet Turn The Ship Around

Leadership matters.  It matters greatly.  How we lead matters even more.  Daily decisions have long and short-term effects on the people and organizations we lead.  Decisions that cascade down upon the organization in two ways; as a shower to renew and energize the spirit of those within, or to rain down in a torrent, endlessly pounding out the voice, enthusiasm, and engagement of those in the organization.

Engage or disengage?  Raise up or push down?  Empower or disempower?  Issues that reside in the hands of leadership.  For one way or the other.  For better or worse.  A story that has been told over and over throughout time.

A story that we hear even today…

We don’t have to listen very closely to hear the clamoring voices of those crying out for leadership – in government, business, education – as we watch the endless parade of self-serving agendas that tear apart and bring down our organizations and institutions in every arena of our society.

People are frustrated.  Disengaged.  Disillusioned.  Searching.

The movement from job to job and organization to organization is at an all time high.  And not because people are looking for change or a new profession.  This is not a factor of boredom.  Not a mid-life crisis type of thing.  It is a leadership thing.

People are desperately searching for leaders that they can stand behind – stand with.  People are crying out for – Authenticity.  Purpose.  Transparency.  A foundation for which to settle.  A foundation built upon intrinsic motivators.  The kind of motivation that creates engagement and momentum across the organization, for the long-term.

Otherwise, it is difficult to care deeply and engage selflessly in an organization that doesn’t seem to reciprocate.

Even harder to be “all in” with a leader that is “all me”.

Contrary to current opinion, people are not adverse to strong leadership.  They actually crave it.  Our society is crying out for strong, selfless leaders.  Authentic. Transparent.  Dedicated to the organization and those within it.  People are searching for those leaders.  Which is apparent in our current concerns over the throngs of the disengaged.  The multitudes engaged in professional migrations.

They are searching for that kind of leader.  That type of organization.  And they are struggling to find them.

Yet, when they do, they want to be there.  They want to be involved.  To be a part of it.  They want the opportunity to throw all of their chips on the table.  To be part of something that they can value – and it values them back.

It is there, at that level…that engagement is activated.  The real value-added shift that creates engagement.  Value me, value you.  A give and take.  Back and forth.

In our schools.  In our workplaces.  In our society.  Engagement has become the real wildcard of success.  A real brick wall obstacle that is affecting far too many organizations and institutions.

Our world is changing rapidly.  For some, much more rapidly than they would like.  Our society is much more mobile and agile than any other time in history.  Rapid changes are pushing hard on our organizations and institutions.  Knocking on the door.  Urging us to come out and play.

But not waiting around before moving on.  Almost as if they know that many of our structures stand as pillars and walls – immovable obstacles that will take us a long time to overcome before we can answer that door.  Before we can entertain the prospect of being able to come out and play.

In every arena, leadership faces these questions.  These structural obstacles.  Can we change?  Can we “Turn the Ship” before it is too late?

Can leaders overcome the ingrained…of our 19th and 20th century mindsets?  Outdated models and strategies that serve as immovable anchors within our organizations.

That of, command and control.  I lead, you follow.  Leadership of the disengaged.

Our world has changed and the present and the future is going to require a different kind of leadership.  For those that choose to anchor themselves in past practices, in command and control, be very aware that the rug is being pulled out from under you.

We have entered the cognitive – the age of the knowledge worker (Covey).  A time of resurgence in creativity and innovation.  A shift that is well underfoot.

And for those reasons – leadership must remain agile.  Grounded in true north principles, yet, agile enough to apply those principles in an ever changing and evolving world.

We are shedding the old.  Casting off the past paradigms.  The one of the “leader-follower”.  A new age.  A new time.  Or, that which David Marquet refers to as – “leader-leader”.

Where engagement occurs.  Where people, their ideas, and their contributions are valued, considered, and supported.  It is the lifting of the lid.

Allowing creativity and innovation to coalesce across the organization.  No longer, “I lead and you follow” – when so much more can be accomplished when we determine to “lead together”.

As Marquet shares in Turn The Ship Around

“Leadership is not some mystical quality that some posses and others do not.  As humans, we all have what it takes, and we all need to use our leadership abilities in every aspect of our work life.”

To accomplish this requires a certain level of leadership – one that incorporates humility and confidence.  And for those willing to forge forward, it has its rewards.

For as Marquet shares –

“The leader-leader model not only achieves great improvements in effectiveness and morale but also makes the organization stronger.  Most critically, these improvements are enduring, decoupled from the leader’s personality and presence.  

Leader-leader structures are significantly more resilient, and they do not rely on the designated leader always being right.  

Further, leader-leader structures spawn additional leaders throughout the organization naturally.  It can’t be stopped.”

This is true value-added.  This is authentic leadership and the art of lifting, or what John Maxwell refers to, as the “Law of the Lid”.  It is the cornerstone of where engagement occurs, grows, and expands.  Rooted in relationship.  Adding value to the relationships and the people we lead and serve.

We live in an interesting time…one in which we are on the cusp of great changes – and yet, many still cling fervently to the past.  

Change is difficult.  Change is hard.  Painful.  Even when we know change is in our best interest, we have a tendency to hang on to the known, cling to status quo.  However, it is here that opportunity exists.

An opportunity for a new way of doing.  A new way of leading.  A new way of being.  An opportunity to create a new story...

Reference and resources:

Marquet, David (2012). Turn The Ship Around!: How To Create Leadership At Every Level. Greenleaf Book Group Press. Kindle Edition.

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