The way we work and lead is overdue for change. For over a century our organizations have been operating according to bureaucratic, hierarchal, and military principals; principals that were put in place to maximize consistency, compliance, efficiency, and production. In other words, control.
And while there’s no denying the fact this model of control has served us well (bringing many remarkable advancements to our doorsteps), control in today’s new world of work is futile. The world, the pace of change -- it’s moving too fast. In fact, it’s moving so fast, it’s difficult for any person or any small group of leaders to predict, anticipate, and execute on what’s coming next. Today, you blink and it passes you by. You’ve missed it. You’ve become irrelevant.
In order to not only survive but to thrive in the new world of work, visionary leaders at all levels must begin the difficult work of questioning and dismantling the rigid structures of our organizations that are holding us back so that we might create new principals that will more effectively serve ALL OF US, not just a few.
Organizations that are going to attract the best talent and win in the new world of work will embrace the shift of freedom and begin to look and feel more like living breathing networks than org charts and hierarchies. Networks of interconnected individuals empowered to impact the organization and the world around them.
A model and a mindset where the leader no longer leads from the top of the chart, but from the center of the network.
How will we make the transformation to unleash freedom inside the organization to not only survive, but thrive in the new world of work? What role will you play?
Three thing leaders can do today…
1. Push Decision Making Down: Be willing to say as leaders, “I don’t know, what do you think.” to those reporting to you. Be willing to give less orders and ask more questions. It’s difficult inside our organizations today to say “I don’t know” for fear of “not looking good” to those above us. It can be challenging to empower someone 20 years younger to solve problems you might feel the need to handle. Delegation and empowerment will become more than just a mantra on the wall; they’ll become the ethos of leadership that reveals itself every day.
2. Focus on Results: We’re on the cusp of the next big transformation of the model of work. Technology today allows us to work very differently than we did even a decade ago. This world feels completely natural to a new talent showing up while at the same time, feels completely foreign to many that have been in the workforce for decades. These different perspectives can cause conflict. Managers must start to make the shift in their mindset to not focus on the empty chair at 4:15pm but to focus on the results being delivered. There’s ample evidence that trusting people to manage their own working lives, whether individually or in teams, pays off. Start small. Go slow. Embrace freedom. Expect greatness.
3. Create a “Power of the Idea, not the Position” Culture: Instill in your people the mindset that great ideas can come from anyone at anytime, then go beyond the lip service by dismantling the politics and bureaucracy that rob your organizations of those great ideas. Embrace the social technologies that democratize the amplification of great ideas, while allowing leadership the ability to tap into the creative collective consciousness of the organization. Champion these tools. Look for places to invite those new voices to the table and constantly ask yourself: “Do we have every generation’s voice represented here?”
To make the shift, it will take bold leadership and a break from old habits and long held assumptions about what work is. If organizations can start to evolve, they’ll see greater profitability and deeper engagement from their people. Bureaucracy and control have had their day. It’s time for a new ideology based on transparency, trust, empowerment, and most importantly, freedom. Welcome to the new world of work.