In the Fall 2016 Edition of Training Industry Magazine, Marshall Goldsmith, Alan Mulally and Sam Shriver challenge the old paradigm of leaders as experts. The article states that: “Historically, leadership has largely been considered a top-down function. Leaders were masters of their crafts that doled out their knowledge over time to eager apprentices aspiring to gain wisdom. Enter the ‘Knowledge Worker.’”
Alan Mulally had first-hand experience with this at Ford. The article cites a situation where Mark Fields (current CEO) was honest enough to state that he did not have the answer to a thorny problem. Instead of offering to help him, as many of us would be inclined to do, Alan suggested that they tap the extensive expertise around the table. The team turned their attention to the problem and their collective decision making led to a significant transformation. This was instructive for all.
There were a few lessons that Alan and his team took from this experience:
· Target transparency and applaud when you get it.
· Recognize that knowledge is power.
· Be wary of making suggestions without true expertise.
· Actively involve others.
· Check your ego at the door.
Hats off to Mark Fields for his courage and to Alan Mulally for his egoless leadership. But what can we take from this if we are not in an environment that actively supports this openness and honesty?
First, recognize that the leadership model has moved. Your mindset needs to shift accordingly. The concept of leader as expert is essentially dead. No leader can be as smart as the collective wisdom of their respective organizations. Even Steve Jobs realized he needed others to add to his genius. So begin to think of yourself as a facilitator leader.
Pay attention to the external environment, interpret changes around you and test approaches that adapt to this changing dynamic. You will become a mediator who synthesizes and sets direction, based on your understanding of changes.
Next, change the internal environment around you. Take the time to bring people together around your biggest problems. There are sources of formal expertise and experiential expertise that you have likely not tapped. Get them engaged and become a connector.
Then position yourself as a facilitator who subordinates your limited knowledge to the more specialized expertise of the team. That might mean simply asking great questions. Or, it could mean not participating in meetings that you would normally feel a need to be in.
Finally, support your team by providing space and resources for thoughtful deliberation and problem-solving. They will feel that you trust them and want to help them solve something you do not have the technical expertise to solve.
So knowledge is power – and individual contributors and managers with specialized expertise have become more powerful. But leaders must shift to utilize the power of influence more than technical power. By knowing your roles are different and they have a distinctive play, leaders can better support the application and iteration of knowledge. You’ll see great improvements in your organization once you embrace these changes.
For more on this topic join us in Livonia on November 29th for our Engagement Through Empowerment class.
Source: Training Industry Magazine