Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We need you to lead us



The world needs more leaders. Not managers, but leaders. There is a scarcity of leaders. Still, today it is possible for anyone to become a leader and create his or her own tribe.

So, what does it take to be a successful leader in this rapidly changing world, in a world where most people - especially management - is doing their best to maintain status quo? (just take a look at the car manufacturing industry)

Well, it takes a heretic. A person with enough faith and belief to overcome the fear of breaking old rules and inspiring people with new ideas. A person who dares to embrace change and does not say "not yet" as an excuse for not doing it right away.

This is in essence what Seth Godin’s book "Tribes - We need you to lead us" is about. It is an inspiring read with lots of insights and inspiring stories. 

If you haven't read the book, spend three minutes to read the following excerpts from Seth’s book:

Managing is about manipulating resources to get a known job done. Leadership, on the other hand, is about creating change that you believe in.

Management often works to maintain the status quo, to deliver average products to average people. In a stable environment, this is exactly the right strategy. Build reliability and predictability, cut costs, and make a profit.

Organizations that destroy the status quo wins. Individuals who push their organizations, who inspire other individuals to change the rules, thrive. Again, we are back to leadership, which can come from anyone, anywhere in the organization.

Look around. You'll se that the marketplace (every marketplace) rewards innovation: things that are fresh, stylish, remarkable, and new.

What I'm saying is that one person can invent a pricing model that turns an industry upside down.

Organizations are more important than ever. It's the factories we don't need. Factories are easy to outsource. Factories can slow you down. The organizations of the future are filled with smart, fast, flexible people on a mission. The thing is, that requires leadership.

Boring ideas don't spread. Boring organization don't grow.

A tribe that communicates more quickly, with alacrity and emotion, is a tribe that thrives.

Nothing online is even close to substitute for the hard work and generosity that comes from leadership. But these tools make leadership more powerful and productive, regardless of who's in your tribe.

Our culture works hard to prevent change. We have long had systems and organizations and standards designed to dissuade people from challenging the status quo. We enforce our systems and call whoever is crazy enough to challenge them a heretic. And society enforces the standards by burning its heretics at the stake, either literally or figuratively.

Odds are that growth and success are now inextricably linked to breaking the old rules and setting your organization's new rules loose in an industry too afraid to change.

When you fall in love with the system, you lose the ability to grow.

Leadership almost always involves thinking and acting like the underdog. That's because leaders work to change things, and the people who are winning rarely do.

And many organizations go out of their way to hire people who color inside the lines, who demonstrate consistency and compliance. And then these organizations give these people jobs where they are managed via fear.

The Web connects people. That's what it does. And movements take connected people and make change.  

The organizations that need innovation the most are the ones that do the most to stop it from happening. It's a bit of a paradox, but once you see it, it's a tremendous opportunity.

The largest enemy of change and leadership isn't a "no". It's a "not yet". "Not yet" is the safest, easiest way to forestall change. "Not yet" gives the status quo a chance to regroup and put off the inevitable for just a little while linger. Change almost never fails because it's too early. It almost always fails because it's too late.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for underscoring the key insights from "Tribes." I also liked the book and appreciated the the insights. I thought the book contained lots of perspective that caused me to go "hmmmm" as I read.

    One additional "hmmm" for me was the discussion of faith versus religion. You can't deny his challenge to organized religion when he says,
    "Faith is critical to all innovation....Religion supports the status quo and encourages us to fit in, not stand out."

    The comparison reminds you of Godin's comparisons between leadership and management. It caused me to go "hmmmm."

    Thanks for the insights.
    Don Frederiksen

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  2. Thanks for the comment.

    I agree with you about the discussion of faith versus religion and that the analogy with leadership versus management is powerful.

    /Oscar

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