We’re living and working in an age where the definition of what it means to be a leader is changing. In the past, many people assumed leadership positions by way of title, often without possessing the skills to effectively lead and inspire. I’m not saying this doesn’t still happen, but the democratization of leadership is now well underway.
“One of the big things that we're seeing with leadership right now is the change of the definition of leaders from the few people at the pointy end of a hierarchical business to leadership being something that’s expected and permitted to everybody across an organization.”
Founding Partner, Within People
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Leaders across the board are under scrutiny more now than ever before. From the White House to behind the Silver Screen, and every organization in between, the spotlight is on. We’re in an age where we can observe leaders in action and hold them accountable. The level of transparency we demand from leaders and the organizations they operate, has never been higher. People don’t tolerate poor leadership anymore. Gallup tells us that 50% of people who leave their jobs, leave bad managers, not bad organizations.
Laurie Bennett is a Founding Partner of Within People, a values-centric group focused on helping companies define and then live their true nature. Laurie is a passionate advocate of changing the definition of leadership to eliminate the damaging entrenched way of leading, while making a new way accessible to everyone. In this episode of the People at Work podcast, Bev and Laurie dig into why unlearning leadership is the first step in this process.
Unlearning leadership is about letting go of what we've come to associate with leadership, and what we've been told it's supposed to look like. It’s also about embracing a new framework to help individuals define and develop their own leadership brand and impact.
“If we start to change the definition of leadership, it makes it feel accessible to people who have never felt like leadership was something that was available to them.”
Laurie talks about recent research he conducted with his partners on the traits of a new breed of leaders. Their exploration revealed eight qualities: vulnerability, creativity, courage, conviction, empathy, curiosity, patience, and love. What’s most encouraging about these traits is that they’re already within reach for all of us.
That’s because we’re born with them. However, over time and as we grow up, we learn to cover them up because that’s what society demands of us. We’re taught not to fail, not to show emotion, not to admit when we don’t know the answer. But that’s not good enough anymore. The full human orientation of leadership with strengths and vulnerabilities equally present, is a requirement to thrive in today’s workplace.
“The new qualities of leadership aren't contingent on where you went to school, how much money you have, what color your skin is, what your gender might be. They're essential human qualities, and if you can show up to these, you are leading.”
The most encouraging part of Laurie’s ideas on unlearning leadership is the wholehearted organizations it will build. If every person sees themselves as having leadership potential, casts away the traditional view of leadership, and fully embraces the emotive qualities of leaders, the collective impact will be tremendous. I hope you’ll take the time to listen to Laurie’s interview, and hear more about his fascinating thesis. I’m sure we all agree that a new way of leading is long overdue.