I have held the view for many years that management is ‘by invitation’ (Disruptive Ideas, 2008).
For example, I am against Leadership Teams composed exclusively by the direct reports of the leader. A Leadership Team should be composed by people invited to be part of the Leadership team, not by the opportunistic presence in a particular geographical GPS position in the organization chart. The Leadership Team could include, indeed, all direct reports and/or some, and/or invited advisers, or members of other teams, and dare I say external people, similarly to the function of Non-Executive Directors in Anglo-Saxon Boards.
Being a member of a Leadership Team should not be an automatic entitlement given by a particular box in the organization chart. Yes, that automatic pilot composition is handy in terms of sharing information, for example, but that’s all. Having all the generals in the room helps. I get it.
OK, this is a conversation for another day. However, it’s linked with the fourth theme in my shopping list: invitation.
Early in 2006 (The Leader with Seven Faces) I talked about the invitational language (or lack of) in leadership. ‘Come with me, let’s do it, I need you, joint me, let’s cook it together, invite Jim’, etc. Most our leadership language is factual weather forecast type.
Religious traditions, certainly the Christian one, have invitational language embedded. Come with me.
In my shopping list for new leaders, circa 2018, I put high in the list leaders-who-invite, as opposed to leaders who explain, or dictate, or read the weather forecast of the Strategic Plan. Come with me. Join me.
I remember the famous pitch from Steve Jobs to the then CEO of Coca Cola, John Sculley: ‘Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling brown water, or do you want to change the world?’ Sculley joined Apple as CEO. And then he did not change the world, but changed Jobs, firing him. Many moons ago I spoke to John Sculley about that paradox in a technology Congress party in the US. He did not find my observation amusing. At all. Bu he signed me his book ‘Odyssey’
Invite. Come with me. I need you. Would you like to change the world? I know some may find this a bit cliché. I am finding these days that more of the old clichés are more solid than the plain vanilla current leadership discourse.
(If you are in a leadership position in a corporation and find ‘change the world’ irritating, cliché and childish, you should ‘reconsider your position’, as use by political language).
We invite less than we should. We either take for granted the guests at the party, or they are already there occupying their chairs, or we tell them what to do, or read them the weather forecast. We have lots of uninvited people in management and leadership teams. We need to reclaim ‘invitation’.