The Leadership of the future is Leaderless: the Leader of the future is less Leader, less boss, but above all less control
On 09 July 2019 I published this article on Kongnews, with this subtitle. Today that future has arrived. Today, not only as leaders we cannot think we know everything, but we are not able to know even when we can reschedule our meetings, we cannot foresee our turnover and we cannot know if and how many customers afterwards will not only wait for us but will be able to request our services. We cannot know how our business will evolve nor what will become of the sector in which we work, whatever it is. Everything is connected, everything is suspended in a void that seems almost surreal to us. In July I was talking about the four abilities of the leader of the future that today, not even a year later, we must suddenly put into practice: not knowing, not being there, not producing, not speaking. I reread its, I bring it to my website that I didn’t have back then and I reflect. I reflect on how these did not materialize suddenly and we were NOT prepared.
Leaderless: because less is more, today more than ever
In the digital world and in a world that we now call VUCA almost fashionably, the keyword is “less”, or better “without” (Leaderless = without Leader). That’s right: the Leader of the future is less Leader, less boss, but above all less control, since we forget that anyways. This does not mean making everything drift away or even not knowing what to do in this sea of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Leaderless or “without” Leaders who think “I’ll tell you how it’s done”, “the boss certainly knows more” or “the boss is the most expert of all” (a situation that has led in many companies to have bad Leaders who should have simply remained specialists). Leaderless means above all having the “non-ability”. Of what? You ask. Of non, period. The ability of “Non” is difficult to learn, especially for those used to being a manager and directing and managing and giving orders left and right. I try to briefly summarize what I mean and which are the most important “nons”
The ability to not know
And here the first big chapter opens. For a manager who has always made the numbers with his great management and five-year strategic plans, it is not at all simple. Here, in fact, a real competence is required: on the one hand the leaders must humbly accept a fact and that is that they cannot know where we will go with certainty in this digital mutation and therefore they must tolerate – and I underline the word tolerate – not knowing. But there’s more. On the other hand, therefore, they must also be able to unlearn the superfluous and above all everything that is old and braking, the schemes adopted so far, the rules that were valid before and the processes that no longer work. In other words, they must learn to unlearn. Once we have recovered from this shock of managerial culture, which found a solid foundation for the situation in plain Malik and Drucker or Kotler, style we can continue with the second non.
The ability not to be there
As a Leader you get paid, and I also hope well! Otherwise, why take even more responsibility? But practically you have to learn not to be constantly bothering your collaborators, meaning you have to know how to let go. I don’t mean that now the Leader is going to do a little game of Golf and let his collaborators work under the July heat, but I mean the ability to let go, a bit like when you let your son cut his meat alone (and beware that some people still cut it to ten-year-old children!).
Today we cannot be there, at least physically, we lack our collaborators, our office, our old way of doing meetings, yet we must have faith in what happens even if we are not there, with them, as before, we have to let go.
The ability not to produce
Okay so now you say, that a Leader, who is perhaps even paid twice as much as his collaborators, must also not produce? And how does he earn the bonus? By creating value. That must be his product. Value for the customer, value for his collaborators, value for the company, value for suppliers, value for the entire ecosystem. The word “value” must become a mantra that resonates like the gong of a Buddhist clock.
Today not only must we not have production in mind as a single goal, but we cannot produce. We are forced to think of something else, what we can optimize, what we can change about our processes, what we can simplify, what we can learn while we wait to start over, for a place where we still don’t know when and how it will be. We review the contents because, we review the value, ours and what we are now able to give but above all what we want to give tomorrow, when all this will be over.
The ability not to speak
Last gem, and I’m really proud of this even if, I admit it shamelessly, I have to practice a little bit more on this last “not” as well. We say that awareness is already a good starting point, but this is another topic. Let’s go back to the last pearl of the fourth oyster, the most important “not”: the ability not to speak. My grandmother Germana said “Magna e tasi” which in the Trentino dialect means “eat and keep quiet”. In our case we could say: “Observe and keep quiet”. Yes, in short, but why, as leaders, must we always have our say? Why during an evaluation interview with the collaborator should we feel obliged to speak ninety percent of the time without having understood a thing regarding the motivations of our collaborator?
From Sun Zun to Dinouart
The art of war”, the master book for many managers (and those who have not read it or have not at least put it as a new year’s resolution to read it, raise your hand), it is no longer needed in the VUCA world. Bam, out of date. So if you have not read it, read it to understand why I am saying that it is out of date, otherwise you will not be able to reply that I am saying “bullshit”. Wait, can I write like this or will I get censored? In short, I would say that “bullshit” in the world of managers is a bit like the “petaloso” of that child who then turned it into a dictionary term. It’s part of the managerial vocabulary isn’t it? Anyway (here I am talking, or rather, I am writing too much), having done away with our Sun Zu of the art of war, we will have to replace it with something or someone better. No problem, jump out of the magic cylinder of the modern VUCA, the Abbot Dinouart. His art is another, but perfectly pertinent to the last “not”: the art of keeping silent!
Today’s keyword: keep quiet!
Already back in July 2019 this 4th was not a gem for me. Today it is a duty, for the good of all, in favor of a collective intelligence that has turned out to lead to global stupidity, because everyone, absolutely everyone, has arrogated the right to speak, as if they were all virologists, economists or experts of crisis communication. Be silent: this is not only the ability of a leader but what we should all exercise now. Stick to the rules and keep quiet.