Saturday, March 7, 2009

Inspiring Your Team: Quantum Leadership

Leadership: It is not about how many ideas you have but how many ideas you inspire others to have.

When you are truly comfortable with yourself as a leader you recognize that your ability to inspire others is the most critical value that you bring to an organization. It is not your ideas or your analyses, as many managers believe. For your ideas and analyses are exactly that, your ideas and analyses. As an organization grows and develops beyond the influence of a single entrepreneur or manager, it relies on the collective insights of multiple departmental and business unit leaders; and to get true excellence out of those leaders you must be willing to let go and allow them to lead.

It is not unlike the difference between giving a man a fish and teaching a man to fish. One experience lasts for a moment, the other for a lifetime -- or beyond if that man teaches another to fish.

Do you want your people coming to work wondering what you are going to ask them to do that day or do you want them coming to work knowing what they are going to do that day because they own their goals, objectives, action plans, and timelines?

If you usurp that ownership, you unwittingly have not only eliminated true accountability but you have also interrupted the creative problem solving energy. And both of these will kill your organization’s growth and development. AND it will only serve to, falsely, reinforce the notion that you are the only person who can figure out what needs to be done and to get the job done. Hmmmm….

My experience is that almost everyone is more capable than we realize they are, we just don’t allow them the space to show their greatness. And when we limit that space, we you lose accountability and creative problem solving.

True accountability cannot be achieved without the accountable individual buying into the goals and objectives and owning the process by which the goals and objectives will be achieved. Too often, managers dictate goals and objectives to their subordinates rather than spending the time to listen and develop mutually agreed upon goals and objectives. When you fail to do that you have lost the natural, innate commitment of a human being to a shared goal. This disconnect occurs at a metaphysical level and in many occasions is imperctable to either individual. But if one is self-aware, she notices her energy shifting when she commits to something that she believes she can accomplish and that she can determine how to accomplish. This is true accountability in the Quantum age.

Many managers struggle with this concept because their experiences and perspectives are still rooted in a “Newtonian” view of the management and work. From that context, managers own the work, the goals, and the methods for achieving the goals or completing the work. In the Quantum view, the workers own the work, the goals, and the methods. This is not only because we are shifting from an industrial work base to a knowledge work base but also because of the evolution of humanity and the desire for self-actualization, autonomy, growth, and individuality in the 21st century.

Much has been written on this difference between Newtonian and Quantum perspectives of leadership. See especially, Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in A Chaotic World (Wheatley) and Quantum Leadership, A Textbook of New Leadership (Porter-O’Grady and Malloch).

But the greater loss in usurping someone’s ownership of their goals, objective, action plans, and timelines is not the loss of accountability but the loss of creativity. When an individual truly accepts accountability, not because a manager has told them what their goals are and how to do their job, but because they have participated in the development of the goal and objective and because they have taken ownership of the method, process, action plan, and timelines required to achieve the goal…then something miraculous happens; their energy shifts and they start to own the solution to achieve the objective. They start to think and brainstorm and innovate. The creative process starts to unfold.

In fact, when this is operating at its peak, new insights are gained that actually reshape the goal into objectives that better align with higher order organizational goals and objectives. Furthermore, new value creation can take place -- value creation that is beyond the ordinary potential of a Newtonian organization. This is Quantum value creation which allows an organization to become self-sustaining.

Self-sustaining. Did you ever realize that your management style may be limiting the potential of your organization? Well it is, if it depends on you to set goals and objectives and to determine how the goals and objectives will be achieved.

Do you give your team the autonomy to set their goals and objectives or do you dictate to them? Do you let your team determine how they will approach their work, how they will do their jobs, and how they solve the challenges that confront them? If you do not, you are only getting a fraction of their potential and they will always disappoint you.

Let go and unleash the power of your team. You will be amazed by the results.

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