‘People like me’ is a category in its own right in the Edelman Trust Barometer. Multiple sets of data point to this category being the highest source of trust inside the organization.
Translation: my mates, my colleagues, my peers, people who share similar worries about life to me, kids or football. Also, ‘one of us’. Call it as you want. It may or may not include the so-called friends in Facebook.
I am talking about this transversal, horizontal tribe, or tribes, I belong to, which have more credibility than official authorities. I play with this in my book Homo Imitans where I said it was ‘youth-to-youth, granny-to-granny’.
This horizontality of trust clashes with the verticality of our leadership.
- You can send 5 social workers to help a dysfunctional family, or enlist an ex-dysfunctional family to fix the problem. Ex-dysfunctional 5, social workers nil.
- You can preach and send messages from middle to old age priests, rabbis or imams to disengaged, disenfranchised youth, or you can engage people of the same age, positive youth, youth-to-youth. Young activists 5, clerics nil.
- You can bombard people in the organization, top down from the hierarchical system with calls to something (safety, accountability, execution) or you can craft and nurture peer-to-peer networks. Peer-to-peer networks 5, top down nil.
The world is horizontal. We think vertically.
The implications for leadership are enormous. ‘Looking sideways’ has a stronger traction than ‘looking up’. I always, always, always get push pack on this, saying I ignore the very hierarchical social systems of the world, where people look up for approval. All those patriarchal and caste-based systems, all those behavioural tapestries in which nothing is supposed to move unless approved by the authorities, elders, seniors and the rest. And that maybe true. People look up in those systems. But how they respond, is much influenced by their looking sideways, how other peers react, what ‘people like them’ do. If compliance is the norm, they will comply. If rebellion is, chances are they will rebel as well. Don’t underestimate the ‘looking sideways’ power.
This my PhD in psychology in one line. People behave the way they do for three reasons: (1) because they are told to; (2) because they want to, or (3) because other people like them do.
The entire traditional management system has been crafted around (1): telling people. The entire motivational/employee engagement system has been crafted around trying to make people behave in (2) mode: make people want to. In the process, people have forgotten (3): because others do.
And this is the best kept leadership secret/gem in front of us.
Extract taken from my book The Flipping Point.  A flipping point in the trend for adopting absurd management ideas needs to be reached. The Flipping Point  contains 200 short vignettes exploring what ’deprogramming management’ may look like. Read recent reviews on LinkedIn  and Amazon .
Peer-to-peer networks are dynamite. Teams are ground transportation, not Formula 1.
We still live in what I call teamocracies. Teamocracies are responsible for a great deal of the slowness of the place and it’s dismal innovation.
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