“Responsibility is the price of freedom.”
We are entering into an era of consciousness in which we can, finally, stop betting on Leaders as we know them today.
When we talk about organizational leadership, we are usually referred back into an individual figure that we define as ‘Leader.’ According to the conventional definition, this person, woman or man, ‘inspires others into achieving a purpose.’ There’s no doubt, specially in the organizational dimension, that these people don’t only exist, but are essential architects in the construction and management of the company. There’s endless literature addressing from most diverse disciplines leadership, as well as plenty of examples that illustrate the qualities that the so-called ‘leaders’ develop and which, in the field of human capital, are called: ‘leadership skills.’ These skills, supported by sophisticated management systems have been defined, from hard data and experience, as universal. For example, no one would argue that how to inspire others through his or her actions is indeed a default competence of a leader. Congruency, as well, is one of those skills that has been, throughout history, archetypically present in such individuals.
The large-scale mass production and exponential data processing power that initiated with the Industrial Revolution, and the technological boom of the millennium, has, for the first time, allowed humanity, not just to have access practically to all knowledge and information available, but to be able to exploit it. This involves, on one hand, access to a more complete map of reality and, therefore, more complex; and on the other hand, the possibility that individuals can actively participate in the construction of such reality.
Regardless of what kind of ‘complexity’ appears in our lanscape, according to Harvard Business Review, only 5% of leaders today, perform from the necessary perspective to manage the complex systemic change. Therefore, increased access to development, makes leadership much more complex. Consequently we move from the ‘one-leads-many’ approach to a more actual ‘many-people-sharing-one-purpose-leading-themselves.’ The impact social networks have on people’s lives in concert with millions of free voices in the world, have generated a recent phenomenon that’s here to stay. Consumers today are gaining strength through organized consumption; citizens through civil participation with global reach; and employees in the co-creation of organizational culture.
In the bigger picture, though the conventional leader is still present, the rise of many ‘I Lead’ individuals is not only weakening the first, but encouraging more and more of the latter. The ‘I leaders’ are ordinary people who speak out in a coordinated effort to achieve a goal they have in common, and who transcend the classical alienation coming from the archetypical figure of a messianic leader. Indisputably, it is becoming less and less likely that the figure of a singular leader would be enough to move groups of informed individuals who can clearly see his or her ‘bright’ side as well as his or her ‘shadow’ side. It is also becoming less and less likely that informed individuals would be seduced by ideas but more by the collective voice which is congruent with each individual´s purpose. We need less leaders that inspire and more free people who take responsibility and inspire themselves.
How does this manifest among organizations?
In the Human Resources forums, each time more and more people talk about the well-known Millennial Generation, who are becoming part of organizations. Young people discouraged by ideas that were sold to them and didn’t work. Children of the global crises who were born connected and grew up with a device in hand, and who can, from a desktop, contribute to the construction and destruction of institutions, governments and businesses. Young people who are hyper-informed, who manifest in their consumption habits and in their loyalty to their employers their core values in action, and in many cases transcend the depleted ‘job security and the assurance of a career plan.’ They want more. They speak out, take out their wallets and they engage where they find, more than economical retribution, purpose.
Some organizations understand it, others don’t. Some are still leaning and keep investing on their leadership team, that is undeniably the most influential because of its systemic weight. These organizations, from the conscious development perspective, could be defined as ‘conventional’. Other organizations, however, have understood that, from a historical point of view, businesses are comprised of individuals with an exceptional self-leadership potential
Within the leader-group binomial relationship, the ‘group’ is becoming more and more developed. As time passes, the conventional leader will have to develop more facilitation skills and less management skills. That is, a leader who builds with other ‘I leaders’. Free and responsible individuals, that equipped with tools and information, manifest their values through action, and depend less on an external individual to guide them. Hierarchy seems to not be enough. Never before did the affirmation ‘culture eats strategy’ had been more valid. The organizational development strategies based on historical conventions are irrelevant to the employee who is informed and who breaks away from the organization’s control, and who is, not only eager to participate, but also is capable of doing it.
Some organizations have understood it and are co-creating together with the stakeholders, a culture of individual responsibility and coordination that is being supported by integrity. “If you are here it’s because you want to be here, not because you have to… and if you want to, you can create with us”; “If you buy with us, it’s because we give you the most value and if we are not, we do want to be, so let us learn how to.” Both statements presume a paradigm that returns to employees and consumers the responsibility of their choices, and opens the door to the collective knowledge to work as a change agent in the development towards having more value for all. It is not enough to tell employees ‘what to do’, instead it is more powerful to inquire about their perspectives, to then find means of shared efficiency that have concrete results that are better, not only economically, but in the individual welfare.
The ‘I leaders’ that are in organizations today, aren’t the functional leaders, or aren’t necessarily the ‘high-potentials’. The majority of employees can move mountains when they learn to collaborate from the standpoint of responsibility. The ‘I leaders’ are the men and women that when they connect between each other and also with a higher purpose, they emerge in organized communities, they emerge as true change agents and find it not only their daily doing, but in its integration by freely adding a sense that transcends one person’s calling. If anything, from the point of view of organizational development, we should invest so that employees operate from a place of unconditional responsibility for organizations may finally be nurtured from the perspective, the dreams and the creativity of many individuals and not only of a few ones.