It is perhaps the Age of Inversion. The weights have gone the other way. Globalisation, big G, or small g, or just corporate speak, has not gone away, but the value of local is higher. Back is the local expert, the local grocery and the local travel agent. Maybe, even, the local bookshop, dare I say, that has more than books.
Top leadership is weaker than we care to believe. But this is such a sinful admission that nobody dares to say it. Top leadership is progressively less powerful; grassroots-anything has great traction. The bottom has power: in the street, in political campaigning, in the health care system, in the peer-to-peer associations. The business organization is next. Employee activism is not employees giving positive messages about their companies. This is a prostitution of the word activism. And it is sad when I see it used as a mere employee with a megaphone. Employee activism is employees taking charge and being more and more self-managed, not necessarily in the fundamentalist, extreme way. If you don’t have a percentage of your workforce self-managed, even a little, you are not listening.
‘Management’ is literally upside down and looking for new ways of doing things, more devolved, more bottom up, more self-managed, more autonomous. Old words such as empowerment, delegation and ‘ownership’ are so incredibly tired that they have lost their meaning. They need a break, perhaps a long break, perhaps retirement.
It is a new concept of the enterprise that we have in front of us, where ‘community organising’ and ‘people mobilization’ skills will be a premium and traditional MBA management may remain but as a commodity. We will send people to understand and participate in social movements, as a way to skill them for leadership positions in the company. We will not send them on a Leadership Course in a Business School. We will hire people who have built something (a football club, a petition, a youth centre, an association) as a premium and we will have the ones who ‘can do a job’ as a commodity.
I am not worried about the super-digitalisation-super-transformation taking away jobs for the robots. I am worried about humans thinking that the answers are more skilling of the last Century, or this one, a la Big Business School.
Business will have more leaders coming from charities, from the army, from ex-diplomats in war zones, from social movements, from people who know how to navigate life and bring others with them.
I am convinced. This is not disruptive innovation or innovative disruption or any other clever business speak. It is survival or prolonged agony trying to steer a ship that suddenly seems to have a life of its own. If done well, it’s success, an exponential one.
Behavioural Economics, Social Movements, Viral Change ™, Network Theory, Political and Social Campaigning, Large Scale Social Interventions, Design, Digital Activism, Voluntarism, all are in and fresh. Traditional economics, traditional management, linear Kotter-ian change, academic ‘research’, mechanistic employee (happiness) engagement and old Business School lenses are out. Tired, aged, desperate for a retirement.
We are all very grateful for your contributions. Enjoy the freedom. Well-deserved. We’ll call you if we need you. We are busy here figuring out how to look at the world upside down.
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At The Chalfont Project, we prefer the use of the term ‘practicing leadership’ to ‘developing’ it to emphasise the real life essence of leadership. So much has been written that the world is full of recipes and techniques, examples and role models. The rich plethora of available answers obscures the need to have good questions. Reflection and introspection seem like logical ingredients for being a good leader, yet our business and organizational life treats them as luxuries that have no place in our ubiquitous ‘time famine’. Busy-ness has taken over business and leadership has been commoditised to a series of ‘how to’. Yet, there is hardly anything more precious in organizational life than the individual and collective leadership capabilities.
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