5 Ways To Better Leadership

Written by in Practices
- 4 min read

There is a species too familiar for comfort—team leaders, supervisors, managers, vice-presidents and bosses who ‘direct’ their subordinates.

This directive style is based on fear, control and status. These leaders control how others do their jobs. Or they try. It’s a doubly bad style that not only neglects the wisdom of the crowd it also disengages those lower in the organization.

The world of business desperately needs a better kind of leadership.

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A New Leadership Paradigm

We are not the first, nor will we be the last, to advocate this. In 1993, James A. Belasco & Ralph C. Stayer (of Johnsonville Foods) wrote in ‘Flight of the Buffalo’ that traditional leadership models and paradigms no longer worked.

They wrote: “The leadership systems currently in use are designed to control relatively uneducated, mostly untrustworthy people in an environment of very slow change. In our free and democratic society, employees park their rights (and usually their sweat)—along with their brains—at the door.

Organizations today are the last remaining feudal enclaves. Too many people in organizations are subjected to authoritarian, and what they believe to be unreasonable, treatment. This is why there is so little effort to achieve in authoritarian organizations.”

This was valid 25 years ago and now more than ever. Unfortunately, many leaders haven’t caught up with the ‘new’ reality.

The Rebel Idea

After visiting 100+ progressive companies around the world we’ve seen the new reality with our own eyes. We’ve seen a completely different style of leadership, and by strong leaders, supportive of those ‘closest to the fire’.

These supportive leaders constantly challenge the status quo – the way we’ve always done things – and encourage the entire organization to do the same. These are supportive leaders. They embody their organization’s mission and values. They do everything in their power to remove barriers and help employees thrive.

Rebel Idea in Practice

Numerous organisations talk endlessly about their ambitions for supportive leadership. However, fuck-all seems to happen, even after expensive courses to change the mindset of the organisation.

So, how do you succeed in creating this style of leadership? What should you keep in mind? How can you adjust the way things work in your organisation, or team?

Here are 5 ways progressive companies promote supportive leadership. We start simply, and work up to more radical options.

1. Beware of HiPPO's

The first step? Don’t fall for the HiPPO-effect (Highest-Paid-Person’s Opinion).

The HiPPO-effect refers to decisions made in line with the opinion of the person with the highest function-cum-highest-salary. That is, not necessarily by the person with the most expertise, or experience, or the best idea.

One way to raise awareness of this effect is to simply place a slogan in meeting spaces that says: ‘Decide based on content, not the bringer of content.’

2. Demolish the Ivory Tower

Demolish status symbols and privileges that belong in the graveyard. Get rid of 19th century remnants. Make sure you value intrinsic equality.

Supportive leaders we have met paved the way for you. Many did this symbolically—by saying goodbye to the corner office, closest parking space and other privileges.

3. Bottom-up feedback

Swap top-down­ feedback sessions for bottom-up ones. And when we talk about bottom-up, we don’t mean the dull 360-degree review meeting where you provide your superior with feedback and never hear about it again.

We’re talking proper bottom-up feedback that reviews the most important task of a manager by people best suited for that job: his or her team members.

Ideally, do so in a radically transparent way. Don’t use a non-transparent tool or app. Rebels with proper cohones dare to make these feedback sessions for leaders completely transparent, across the entire organization.

4. Multiple promotion tracks

Make short work of the Peter Principle. Build multiple promotion tracks. Especially make sure you don’t have to become a manager to get promoted.

It works like this: imagine you’re a great IT programmer and you don’t necessarily need or want a management position to get promoted. You can become a recognized expert in your field, or take up a mentoring position to help promote others!

Make sure reward structures accommodate this. Specialists should get the rewards they deserve.

5. Choose your leader

Letting employees choose their own leader is one of the most rebellious ways to clean out bad leadership.

Choose a voting process where everyone selects his/her own mentor. Choose a continuously changing leadership model. How, doesn’t matter. Just do it!

The beauty of selected leadership is that only those chosen can truly lead. If this isn’t the case, the team can decide to replace the person with a better leader.

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