Liberation Leadership: The Time Has Come

“Tank Man,” Tiananmen Square, 1989. Large image via Michael Mandiberg / Flickr (Creative Commons).

Now that you can write just about any kind of screed in Microsoft Word, then turn it into an eBook, everyone’s now an expert on leadership.

And they say, oh so casually, as if talking about the weather: “Say, have you seen my new book? It’s on the subject of leadership.”

I especially love people who talk about being a “servant leader.” This while they’re pulling down a six-figure salary and never interact with the people they lead.

What leadership really is, or what it ought to be, is liberating. As in:

  • Liberating strategy from confusion and chaos.
  • Liberating employees from shitty, inept, abusive management.
  • Liberating operations from inefficiency and backward thinking.
  • Liberating knowledge from unnecessary shackles and setting it free for all to benefit from.
  • Liberating the planet from greed, irresponsibility, and exploitation.

Liberation leadership is an attitude. It is a process. It is a way of doing business that is more important than any specific item on the agenda.

In the olden days you could walk on people’s backs to succeed.

In the past, in fact, bullying was required.

Just like the cool kids always got away with all the shit they did in high school.

Because they were cool.

Bullying made them cool.

But we’re in the social future now. And there is no room for bullies.

Hey bullies: We don’t want to work for you anymore.

Guess what? We don’t have to.

This is not to say that a great leader must be well-liked. In fact it is just the opposite. Often enough, a liberation leader has people calling for their head.

They mess up the assembly line, after all.

They make the others look bad.

Liberation leadership is not servant leadership. But it winds up serving the people who work with that person every single day.

In a liberation system, the people are free.

Because some brave soul took the keys to the prison cells.

Stuck those keys in the cells. Released all the prisoners, that brave soul did.

Found the medicine in the infirmary. And bandaged up the scars on the prisoners’ backs. Scars from whipping.

Together, they marched to the kitchen, and what do you know? Up above the ceiling beams —

They found all the caviar, and the truffles, and the champagne the prison guards were hiding.

And then they sat down together, and ate up a storm.


All opinions are the author’s own. “Tank Man” image via Michael Mandiberg / Flickr (Creative Commons). Learn more about the story here.