The revolutionary way to lead where chief stay hidden and let others shine. Check out what this model it is about and apply it into your organization today!
The old model: The "CEO and Everything Else" model
When we think about any successful organization we tend to visualize it first in terms of its Superstar-alike-CEO, and second, in terms of the rest of the organization. This mental construction of what a good organization it is supposed to be has created a general leadership model replicated in every organization and at every hierarchic level: The "CEO and everything else” model.
In this model the boss is the fundamental and solely human face of the company, the protagonist of the entire story, and a sort of enlightened man who knows how to do the job, and how to do it right. Thus, the leader seems to be the only one entrusted to bear the success or failure of the performance of the company, and in consequence, he is virtually the only one in the organization which his efforts are recognized. Meanwhile, the rest of the organization, work as an anonymous team in order to create products or services efficiently.
The "CEO and everything else" model had proved to be extremely successful in the past, when wealth creation was based on physical capital and the problem was to organize workers to complete monotone and mechanical tasks to manufacture complex products or services.
But with the birth of the knowledge economy, this model brought us also an array of issues (i.e. demotivation, loss of productivity, inability to attract and retain the best employees, inability to innovate and change or to create a new cohort of leaders, and so on...) which are undermining the effectiveness of current leadership. And the problem is that leadership, as a generalized practice, is in crisis because in its application it has lost its essence and has been deviated into something else, something that cares more about status quo and less about mission statements; and most leaders are more focused on being served than being servants.
The problem is that we put too much importance in just one person, the so-called leader. We treat them now like kings, movie stars, or heroes. And by doing so, we are underestimating the potential of the rest of the people that integrate a given organization.
And the situation gets worst when bosses tell to their employees "as far as it goes" stories about the systemic conception of the organization, where everyone -as if they were working ants- should contribute to achieve a common objective, but leaving out the little detail that at the end of the day every good idea (no matter if it was a product of teamwork) should be credited to him (that is, to the boss).
Those kind of situations (that we must eradicate from our managerial landscape) are being replicated almost everyday in every type of organizations and at every hierarchic level. The results are devastating and are a consequence of the desire to become the man/woman at top, because only top executives seems to be the only ones able to get those fifteen minutes of fame that everyone wants to have.
The Super-star-CEO era is over
Now, that we are entering in the creative economy era, it is clear to many of us that this model must be abandoned and we have to embrace a new model of leadership, one that encourage, recognize and reward individual contributions. The idea is to create not an organization with a star CEO on top. We need to dream about an organization composed by star employees and perhaps a star leader too, but capable to let their subordinates do their magic and shine, while he remains hidden in the shadows.
Intro: Football teams as external inspirations
Why professional football players are highly productive and employees are not? The natural response is because they love what they do. But this is just half of the answer. The other half lies in the fact they get recognition of what they do. And precisely, recognition is the key ingredient of the new leadership model.
In a football teams (i.e. Manchester United, or FCBarcelona), not only the manager stands out. Its players acquire recognition, fame and popularity based on their personal contributions to the club. But what would happen if the old "CEO and everything else" model (which rules in most of current businesses today) were also adapted in the way football matches are played?
What could happen if Sir Alex Ferguson (Manutd's manager) or Josep Guardiola (Barcelona's manager) comes up with a brilliant idea, and tell to their players that from now on he should be the human face of the team and therefore, they (the players) must go out to the football pitch wearing masks and uniforms without their names, numbers or any distinctive feature that could identified them as individuals?
At first, this strategy would provide an enhanced spirit of collaboration and teamwork. But, after many press conferences where the proud manager tells the world the benefits of his new way to play football and how important he is to the success of the team, the players-hidden in the shadows- will realize that they are not football players anymore, they have become just… uh! employees. And then, the productivity curve will plummet, the team will start to lose a game after game, and the grandiosity of what makes football a great thing will disappear because their former stars athletes will be vanish into an egocentrically model. This horrible hypothetical situation that could destroy the football game is actually happening today in our organizations: we are destroying our best employees, our star employees.
The new model: The "think outside the spotlight" model
The new way to lead is about to convert employees in real stars, such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Xavi or David Villa (just to name a few of the top footballers). It is about make organizations more like a football team. We need to created an organization with star employees which could shine along with a star leader.
To adopt the new “think outside the spotlight” leadership model is necessary to take into account these four principles:
1) You (as a leader) need to change radically
The first thing you need to do is fight against your ego. And this is perhaps the most difficult and important thing that you need to accomplish if you want to become a forward-thinking leader.
The almighty leader era is over. Now, you must accept that you have to rely on others to achieve your objectives and the fact that you are a mere ignorant compared to the vast amount of information and knowledge that is nowadays available across the world.
Hence, you, as a leader of the future, will be more like a humble guy than a hero. You will have to sacrifice yourself in order to let others success. You will have to detach yourself from your personal possessions, including your actual job position, your hierarchic power, and in general terms, you will lose your status quo.
That is the challenging truth that you will face in short. So, it would be better if you prepare yourself through a deep and personal reflection process, and a systematic detachment of your ego.
I highly recommend you to read Paul Reps’ Zen Flesh, Zen Bones (http://amzn.to/6IXm9L). A book full of Zen stories that show the door of the mysterious path of abandonment.
Remember: the key is start to thinking and leading outside the spotlight. :)
2) Start to recognize efforts and contributions
Now that you have beaten up your own ego and you are aware of the fact that you must let your subordinates shine, you can start looking for your potential Star(s) as if you were a scout trying to find the next David Beckham (http://bit.ly/9IHaFz). And whenever you find a great idea that could bring innovation and prosperity to your organization you have to support it from the very beginning in order to allow the creator(s) to develop it, nurture it, and finally, show it to the world (whether it will be shown at a board meeting or in a press conference)
The key factor is that the creators of the idea are the ones entrusted to publicly release it and they will share with you the resultant success or failure. Thus, they will have in their hands the opportunity to do something remarkable, to stand out and get recognition. This will dramatically improve their motivation and their commitment with the project and the organization.
Since that you are also responsible of the success of the idea, your task here will be empower them in order to assure that they will sell it to the audience accordingly. Hence, once again, forget about your ego and share with them your secrets about how to captivate the attention of internal and external customers, how to show yourself as a confident and insightful professional, and how to communicate and preserve at every moment the corporate image.
By training your subordinates with everything you know to become yourself as a Superstar-CEO, you are transforming them from mere employees into strategic allies that they will help you to manage your public relations. They will become good will ambassadors of your company.
Finally, by the time the presentation of the idea has ended, and if everything turns out to be ok... voila! You will have your first cohort of highly motivated star employees. And since everyone else wants to be famous just as they are, the positive effect of commitment and motivation, will spread like a virus through out the entire organization.
3) Public relations and marketing (tasks and responsibilities)
The Marketing and Public Relations departments have to design and implement array of strategies to promote the organization as a place full of superstars or something similar. In addition, they have to help leaders to empower their employees according to the “think outside the spotlight” model. For example: by preparing speeches to be pronounced by employees as the same as they would prepare for a top executive conference.
4) New approach to assess leaders' performance
We need now to measure, encourage, and reward leader's ability to empower people, to unleash creative thinking within his teamwork, and his skills to train them in order to sell the idea and at the end of the day shine. The more his subordinates are famous the best.
- It is a fact that everyone wants recognition, and this new model will provide a 15-minute-fame opportunity for every person in a given organization.
- Improve public relation effectiveness because every person should be aware of the importance of preserve the corporate image, and everyone should know how to communicated at every moment.
- You, as a leader, will be providing a non financial but very potent reward to your employees. You'll treat them as business partners, as estrategic allies in public relations and marketing efforts. Not just as assetts.
- You will become a forward thinking leader, ready to face 21st century managerial challenges. While promoting a new breed of innovatives leaders that will collaborate with you in the creation of the organization of the future.
- Start with you and with your immediate area of influence (e.g. the company/department/project/group that you manage or collaborate with.
- Detach yourself and become a new leader (a "think outside the spotlight" Leader)
- Look for your potential star employees/subordinates.
- Encourage them to contribute with creative ideas.
- Establish networks and promote massive collaboration.
- If someone comes up with a great idea, let him to develop it, nurture it and present it to the world. Train him to present his own idea effectively. Let him to sell it and shine!
- Let him know that you’ll be there to support him if is necessary. But remain in the shadows whenever possible.
- Congratulate your brand-new-star-employee and watch how the positive effect is replicated.
* Detach yourself and become a new leader (a "think outside the spotlight" Leader)
* Look for your potential star employees/subordinates.
* Encourage them to contribute with creative ideas.
* Establish networks and promote massive collaboration.
* If someone comes up with a great idea, let him to develop it, nurture it and present his idea (Train him to sell the idea and shine!)
* When the time of the presentation arrive, let him know that you’ll be there to support him if is necessary. But remain in the shadows whenever is possible.