“Why is everyone so hung up on Leaders, Leadership and Leadership courses – it’s what gets us into a mess. Think banking, politics, sport…” —Donald Clark
If all you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. If all you know is hierarchical leadership by virtue of one’s position, then all solutions are in the hands of the CEO. Conversations with 150 CEO’s only yield ‘CEO thinking’.
“To raise the organization’s confidence in their decisions, leaders must carefully balance the various personal paradoxes involved in the decision-making process, including:
doubt – anxiety versus fearlessness, omniscience versus ignorance;
conviction – openness versus self-sufficiency, hubris versus humility;
realism – realistic optimism, i.e., pragmatism, versus blind optimism, i.e., gambling; and
patience – the right pacing or timing of decisions versus detrimental haste and hesitation.”
The great man theory of leadership is outdated, just as the divine right of kings was two centuries ago. Even the World Economic Forum thinks in terms of leadership as an individual achievement. The 4 skills you need to become a global leader, according to a WEF article, are:
- Have multiple skills so that you have flexibility in your options
- Be ready for set-backs
- Expose yourself to other cultures
- Learn to communicate well
This is fairly pragmatic advice for everyone, not just those who are trying to move up the artificial ladders of institutions and organizations. But we don’t need better leaders. We need organizations and structures that let all people cooperate and collaborate. Positional leadership is a master-servant, parent-child, teacher-student, employer-employee relationship. It puts too much power in the hands of individuals and blocks human networks from realizing their potential.
In the network era, leadership is helping the network make better decisions. The future as proposed by current leadership is about becoming a better leader, but it’s really about all of us becoming better people. This starts by creating more human organizational structures, ones that enable self-governance. Leadership is an emergent property of a network in balance. Depending on one person to always be the leader will only dumb-down the entire network.