Doers Understand Leadership Isn’t About Control
For business, today is a different world. The typical command and control model that our corporations are built on (actually from the Medici era of Italy) most likely isn’t working. Doers understand this paradox. Good leaders are able to embrace the idea that it’s okay to assemble the right team, set the vision and then allow the team to make their own choices, acting from their heart, gut and soul.
Probably sounds scary, especially if you are the boss, but take a breath…consider, just for a moment, that you’re not in control. Consider, too, that it might not be a bad thing.
The components of business are so very different today than they were even a decade ago. Social media has changed the rules. Things move so fast now that the hierarchy of control can actually be detrimental to the growth and sustainability of a venture. The immediacy of social media has an added a component, too––and that is “real time.” Consumers are able to reach out to brands in real time through social media, so a tweet can’t wait for a response that takes a week. There is no longer room for a response that’s approved by the person in charge, vetted by the lawyers, crafted by the marketing department, and then released to the public. Think of it this way: A trip advisor comment goes up and immediately someone moves their reservation to another hotel.
But leadership is not really about taking control anyway, is it? Leadership is, or should be, more about letting the team figure it out themselves and go for it the way they want to.
So what I am asking all of you leaders and doers out there to realize is that you might be creating the vision, but you can’t always be in control of the day to day execution or the real time decisions that are being made by the down line. So best if you accept it now and embrace it.
This is so important, especially for the new, young doers out there, because all of the basic lessons business people like myself want to instill in you might be very different from what you need to know about building a business today. None of the older mentors you might encounter will tell you to relinquish control. None of us––yes, I would say none––would tell you to let go of control in this way. (And if you’re a mentor in the 50 plus age group and disagree with me, please let me know why I am wrong.)
I also do understand that for most of what Doers are Doing, they wouldn’t have gotten to where they are if someone wasn’t in control in some way. Someone has to be in charge, to set the boundaries and set the overall vision. This even relates to parents who think they are in control of their children’s behavior. And kids today have so many more stimulants than ever before in the history of mankind. Ultimately, you can lead by example and suggest that your kids behave in a certain way, but after a certain age you can’t actually make them do anything. Leadership is often the same way, you set the tone and the agenda, and give those you’re working with the tools they need to make good decisions and carry it out the way you’d want––then leave them to it.
I really had to think this through, and it was tough for me to relinquish control to a team that I’m working with on an important project (that is going to be BIG.) They did so much better of a job than I would have ever lead them to do. After this experience, I believe that the command and control model is just antiquated. I can’t even believe that I am actually saying this after years of counseling multiple CEOs to make sure they are in control. Yep!
But today, as I said earlier, is a different world. Just ask many multi-national companies, including Nestle. I sold a company to them, and have continued to consult for them over the years. They have experienced first hand the immediacy of today’s business landscape, with a 2 billion dollar brand called Kit Kat. Check it out if you get a chance.
Let me give you another example. Recently, I was on the run and not paying attention to time, the day or what was big on my plate. Instead, I was moving all the piddling detail that really isn’t that important around when I realized I had a very important call scheduled and really had not prepped for it. In desperation, I reached out to the team, who had been working very hard on this, and proposed an outline of who would present in their own unfiltered words. I said I would open with an intro and then the gang could chime in one by one.
Well, they where incredible. The call became a love fest, a really important one, and one that made me realize I am not in control at all. Then I smiled at what a great team we have (which I have always known but sometimes my ego gets in the way, and this felt so much better.)
Today, I jumped on a plane, eager to read a new book called the Culture Code by Danial Coyle. After just the first 4 pages it totally got me. I recommend you read it when you can, it will rock your world. It pertains to working with groups, and this is the part that got me, that made me want to share this in a blog––and I know that I am poorly paraphrasing, so apology up front, Daniel, but here goes…
A few years ago a designer named Peter Skillman held a competition to find out which four person group could build the tallest structure from a few simple things:
•Twenty pieces of uncooked spaghetti
•One yard of transparent tape
•One yard of string
•One standard sized marshmallow
The contest only had one rule, the marshmallow had to end up on top.
The teams consisted of business school students from Stanford, University of California and the University of Tokyo, among others, and a group of kindergartners.
The business students got right to work. Then began talking and thinking strategically. They discussed the materials and exchanged thoughtful and insightful questions. They collectively decided on a strategy.
The kindergartners took a different approach. They did not strategize. They did not analyze or share experiences. They didn’t not ask questions, propose options, or hone ideas. Instead they grabbed materials from one another and started building, following no plan or strategy. When they spoke to each other they just burst in with “here,” “here.”
If you had to bet who won the challenge, would you choose the business students? It might seem like the obvious choice, but you would be wrong. Yep! You already knew it, I know because I wouldn’t be going through this if the answer was obvious. The average height of the structure for the kindergartners was 26 inches tall. And the business students? They averaged only 10 inches high.
So this is why this is so important for you leaders of business, your family or your organization; this told me loud and clear and what I want to tell you–– Stop worrying about who is the alpha dog in the group or what the result might be or what you, the leader, might think.
For groups/cultures to do their best work they must be free to tape, paste and build away without the boss’s meddling. Yep! Without your meddling, your group will be free to create the highest structure in the way that makes the most sense to them.
I experienced this twice in one week and wanted to share with you, because it is a new day. I can’t believe I am even referencing this, but even The NY Times quotes Trump’s tweets as today’s news. So brace for change and embrace the fact that you’re not in control.