More with Less Means Leadership…

The Death of a Manager, Act 1...

Sitting here in an MIT class regarding redefining Leadership Strategy, one of the points which struck me was the discussion that in today’s world we are being handed more responsibility with less authority.  As managerial layers are being pulled out from underneath us, we are seeing a new paradigm akin to that of the story-line in Death of a Salesman.  However this time Willy Loman is now a manager and there is a red strike out through the title with pencil writing below which reads “Death of a Manager“.

While there isn’t much new here as the drum beat of the poplar business book press has for years said this, however is this really the same?  In my mind not, as in these cases the application is more academic and maybe moral in a way.  The game in today’s business world with its new needs makes this now a “practical” one as before we had a managerial safety net in place to catch us should we fall.

However achievement in today’s world is no longer driven by “positional” attributes, in fact by this model we are being drawn into the black hole known more commonly as “influential” management.  As calling it as such is not a knock, it is simply a statement in fact, as in as position based hierarchical model things are simple, fast and fixed.  In short, your manager tells you to do something, the fact you are paid a wage from that person means you by nature want to avoid biting the hand which feeds you.

Influential management however means we’ve remove this connection, therefore the controls “of biting the hand that feeds you” which is driven from the lizard brain is gone.  Thus we are being asked to move from an “autonomic system” of management, to one which now requires the use of our frontal lobes.  With these engaged it no longer becomes so easy as now we both have to think of what is involved, therefore new dynamics must be applied and a critical success factor to making all this work is “trust“.  As in our basic fight or flight response didnt rely upon external influences such as trust, which is way they can occur quickly and effectively to task.  Yet is the question is the “task” most appropriate to need”?

As while the rote action is efficient and creates a repetitive product, it lacks the ability to evoke Darwinian abilities thus susceptible to aging and hence obsolesces.  From this we see that there are credible drivers for this change as the era of Henry Ford’s “you can have any color so long as it’s black” is being exchanged.  Here the new model has an expanded set of “attributes” added to each transaction, however the catch is each are underpinned by trust.

To analogize as each attribute requires additional information, therefore we find accountability being pushed to us, therefore we must be able to “trust” the information, and therefore “trust” becomes a polymorphic denominator in our new equation for success.  Also when you see Willy at the curb, tell him I said Hi…

About Joseph Campbell

As a strong believer in the fact that "people work for people", it has been a life driver to better to understand the complexities of the various aspects which drive efficiency within this axiom, especially the concepts of leadership. Supporting this, I have been fortunate enough to having experienced this as leader on a global basis over the last decade and half. During this time it has been clear there are three core drivers being Life, Leadership and Economics.
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