We need leaders, not managers

In a recent interview, Seth Godin stated that Managers are a dying breed and that what we need are more leaders.  His point is that if someone can give you instructions on how to do your job then it is capable of being automated away and as managers essentially give the instructions, their role becomes unnecessary.

Work is changing from executing known procedures and applying existing solutions to solving complex problems and coming up with novel and innovative answers. However, we currently train people for the former rather than the latter. Godin says that the skills we should be teaching people are 

  1. Operating with ambiguity  – being able to use soft skills to reach decisions using imperfect knowledge
  2. Increased critical thinking  – be prepared to fail and learn from it to refine decision making
  3. Making change happen – how to co-ordinate people and resources in innovative ways

I completely agree that we need more leaders and would go further – we need everyone to be a leader. Not all the time but to be capable and ready to show leadership when the circumstances demand it. This is a feature of high-performing teams and organisations, where leadership is a shared responsibility that is passed to the most appropriate person according to the situation.

I also agree that a different set of skills and competences are required and that this leadership needs to be more people-focused and heart-led, drawing upon intuition as much as rationality and driving creativity and novelty rather than efficiency and repeatability.

This is what I call creating magic at work. Enabling the creativity, innovation and agility that organisations need to succeed in the ambiguous and dynamic world we are in today. However, I would add another skill to Seth’s list and that is the ability to create a supportive environment, one that encourages deep connection and self-expression, one based on trust, respect, safety and compassion. 

This is the emotional labour that is required of the new leaders. To be vulnerable, to be compassionate and to nurture those that they lead. To lead from the heart first and the head second.

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

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