We have had a male model of leadership for many years. Having strong leadership control was and still is important. We expect our leaders to “get a grip” and make sure that things happen. I have first-hand experience of doing things this way. I was an army officer for eleven years and know exactly what “getting a grip” means.
With the benefit of hindsight and the wisdom of years, I wonder if it is time to loosen the grip and lead in a different way. Let me explain what I mean
When you are a leader you are vulnerable. You make the choice to stand up and have your actions exposed to scrutiny. It is not easy to deliver results that please your boss and win the respect of your followers. Being in control usually means setting up systems and processes and then having regular meetings to manage what is going on. When controls are put in place, I suspect that the underlying emotion is often fear; fear of missing targets, fear of getting it wrong and ultimately fear of losing employment. If I am right, then it is not surprising that control systems are rampant in the workplace. As a society we are terrified of making mistakes and have a low tolerance of failure. If you believe that people need to be controlled and managed to deliver good work then you can probably see nothing wrong in having these systems. If, like me, you take a different view then you might carry on reading.
I believe that everyone on the planet has an inbuilt drive towards growth. Throughout history human beings have consistently found ways to overcome the restrictions, regulations and rules that those set on leadership control have placed in our way. This drive is powerful and always there (no matter how deeply it is buried).
If you share this view, then leadership is not really about control; it is instead about channelling people’s energies and creating opportunities for growth. People usually enjoy their work when their job is meaningful (i.e. it benefits others), when they have autonomy and when they enjoy good working relationships with those around them. Or, in other words, they feel worthy, trusted and accepted.
At this stage I should point out that I am not advocating a free for all. We need systems and processes to make society and business work. What I am advocating is that leaders look at controls in a different way. When they are imposed from fear, people cannot grow; they become diminished and unable to make a full contribution.
When leadership controls are aligned with meaningful purpose they help channel commitment and energy so that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. People accept these controls because they want to, not because they have to.
So if you are a leader, I wonder if you could take a look at the controls you have in place and check why you have them. Which ones serve your purpose and which ones are there to keep your fears at bay? Dare you take the risk of relaxing your grip? If you do you might be surprised by the energy and commitment you release.