We’re experiencing a leadership paradigm shift that’s upending basic assumptions about what it means to be in charge. Leadership has historically been cast in the model of militia leaders heading the charge of the brigade. We’ve understood leadership as the dominant position over a team that has been assembled for the purpose of dominating other groups of people and/or market forces. Being in charge has been understood as the act of having power over allies, colleagues, team members, competitors, products, and/or services.
But the leadership archetype is evolving as more and more companies, like Barrett & Associates at ValuesCentre.com, are demonstrating that virtually every success metric improves when leaders focus on catalyzing the invisible charges that spark human behavior. We’re moving away from framing leadership as a hierarchy of responsibilities for systems and processes, as the master of the house and everyone in it and around it. And we’re moving toward recognizing that leadership success is dependent on mastery with the intangible spark, the mojo, of the collective.
The data couldn’t be clearer that the act of being in charge has everything to do with a leader’s capacity for charging the charge. How do you do that?
1. Self-examine and self-develop.
It goes without saying but, if you’re not eating, sleeping and exercising adequately, make it a priority. The jury’s in on this one. Your body is your leadership vehicle and its effectiveness is primal to everything you do.
But physical and mental wellbeing aren’t the only primal forces, they’re just the easiest to see and manage. Authors including Stewart Friedman in Total Leadership and Mark Albion in True to Yourself, remind us that conscious development of the subtleties within your own heart and mind gives you access to mastering the intangibles of leadership, the invisible factors that make and break everyone’s productivity.
Emotions, needs, fears, desires, unfinished personal business, and other psychological and spiritual factors make all the difference in leadership effectiveness. It’s not just important to work out the hard and messy things within yourself and then manage them with whoever else is part of the issues you’re ready to resolve. It’s also important to carve out the time and space for solo contemplation and meditation, and for taking deep dives with wise and trusted counsel. Exercising the invisible “muscles” involved with expanding your leadership consciousness will yield insights that pay off forever.
Studies show that in any given situation, the person who is at the higher level of values development is the authority, regardless of rank. In other words, if someone who reports to you is ahead of you on personal homework, s/he is who people will listen to and who will more likely turn out to be right. Moral authority comes with the wherewithal to consciously evolve yourself so that you can better fuel the spark of those around you. When your own personal development is stagnant or devolving, so is your leadership standing.
Good leaders evolve, great leaders consciously evolve.
2. Follow the data.
Data corroborates what appears to be a global impulse to deepen and widen our definition of leadership. Hierarchical models are shown to under-perform values-driven models in study after study. The Standard and Poor’s 500 indicators for that the top 20 Best Companies to Work For in the USA showed a 600% increase in profits for companies that focus on meeting employee’s basic needs as well as their growth needs or, in other words, who demonstrate high value for helping employees feel happy and fulfilled.
While many MBA and corporate programs are still functioning from the old profit-at-any-cost paradigm, companies that aspire to new paradigm, values-driven, leadership models are realizing astronomical returns on investment in the intangible sparks that charge productivity. Companies like Zappos and Google broke the old paradigm mold with cultures that look crazy and chaotic in comparison to business norms yet have yielded many times the results of their more hierarchical corporate counterparts.
New Paradigm leadership recognizes intangibles, like team alignment, as cultural capital that can be measured and managed. Still, cultural capital is usually overlooked despite the unequivocal fact that it pays so well to get data on your intangibles. When cultural capital is accounted for and consciously developed, all indicators go up, including profits, share prices, stakeholder loyalty, innovation, and teamwork.
The data is so overwhelming that if you aren’t measuring your culture so you can actively account for it, it could be considered malpractice. There are many tools on the marketplace for tracking your cultural data. I use Barrett’s Cultural Transformation Tools because they measure cultural alignment, track entropy, and they can be used with individuals, groups, and sub-groups. They also provide a baseline for ongoing and coherent accountability.
As a consultant serving business and non-profit leaders, I’ve been uniquely positioned to witness and support them in the gap that exists between what’s always been so about their jobs and what’s turning out to be a very different way of defining and optimizing bottom lines. In the old profit-at-any-cost paradigm, spreadsheets made decisions easy. The emergent paradigm is unfolding in the work of breakthrough leaders who are wise and wonky — who are ever-evolving themselves and who measure what matters. Quantifying your cultural capital and accounting for your personal leadership consciousness creates data that reflects just how much charge your organization has.
3. Change your language.
This step requires a combination of the first two steps because language is so integral to everything else, you can’t make a fundamental language shift without shifting within. And, you wouldn’t see purpose to changing your language if you aren’t in touch with the data.
It stands to reason that you can’t use the same old words to effect change. There’s an ontological shift going on in our ideas about leadership, meaning a change in the very ground of being used to define leadership. In other words, what we’re facing is a fundamental change in what it means to be in charge. The ontological, or ground, shift means that leaders must re-orient to a broader range of success metrics.
I was working with high level leaders at the United Nations when the General Assembly voted unanimously in 2012 to start convening toward a New Economic Paradigm based on Happiness and Wellbeing. The UN General Assembly is a body that often doesn’t seem to be able to agree that the sky is blue, yet the overwhelming data from countries like Bhutan, Finland and Japan, combined with scholarship from Yale and Berkeley, combined with shifting success metrics coming in from companies like Starbucks, prompted world leaders to agree that the ontological basis of economics had to shift from relying on Gross National Product indicators to relying on a much wider base of indicators like those in the Gross National Happiness Index used in Bhutan and others like it that are being used in Canada and elsewhere.
Leaders’ roles are being re-framed while at the same time they’re tasked in accordance with regressive and narrow definitions of leadership. Your language is the key to how well you negotiate the paradigmatic divide. The language of the new paradigm is cooperative, partnership-based, values-driven, compassionate, and just. Listen to yourself and take stock of the words you choose. Become impeccable with your word.
Your reality is both reflected by, and a result of, the stories you tell. What stories are you perpetuating? Are they about how charged everyone is or could be, or are they about dominating? Are your stories reactive or responsive? Do your stories spark inspired action or do they spark negative reaction? What sparks are you generating?
4. Dig deeper to tune into the invisible drivers of success.
Leadership is like an iceberg in that the unseen base is larger than what’s visible and it determines how stable and how big the iceberg is. Charging people’s sparks happens at an intangible level and that locates the work of doing the charging in the realm of metaphysics, which is the branch of philosophy that deals with abstract concepts like causality, i.e. what causes things to happen. This is deep stuff but it’s as simple as an iceberg’s structure — the stronger the invisible fundamentals are, the higher it reaches. Likewise, the more deeply rooted your decisions are, the more likelihood of their success.
The idea that intangibles are irrelevant “fluffy stuff” is a waning myth that is scientifically invalid. Still, it’s tough to wrap our pre-conditioned minds around new (and some very ancient) understandings about the invisible factors of success. What’s become increasingly apparent is the profound difference between understanding leadership as a hierarchy of domination and understanding it as managing the metaphysics of causing success to happen.
The metaphysical domain is so powerful because it is the meta-field of causality that, when consciously accessed, gives you the wherewithal to more consciously cause what happens under your leadership. Just like an electrical charge must be sourced, sparked and directed, so must a leader charge the invisible currents in themselves and their organizations. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, explains his extremely successful approach to managing leadership invisibilities in his book, Delivering Happiness: a Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose.
Leadership success is directly correlated to your adeptness with the unseen factors that drive people. The quality and results of your leadership depend on how consciously you can stoke, harness, and unleash the collective charge of all stakeholders. What would change if your job title included Chief Mojo Officer or if the description included “the one who’s in charge of sparks”?
5. Pay attention to values.
The emerging paradigm understands leadership to include the act of being a catalyst for charging the charge that every stakeholder inherently brings to any process. But how do you reconcile the metaphysics of sparking things with managing what’s on your desk right now? Values are the common denominator. The emerging leadership model holds valuation for values themselves.
Researchers including Whitney and Schmitt in a 1997 Journal of Applied Psychology article have demonstrated that actions in pursuit of values, which are a primary motivator of human behavior, have practical, psychological, biological, and social consequences. In their 1998 article in the Journal Of Management, researchers Meglino and Ravlin conclude it’s “been proven over and over again: Culture is captured by the significant conversation in the organization and through its management and policy documents, which in turn reflect the values priorities held by the organization.”
Values are the bridge between the tangible and the intangible. Values drive behavior because they are our most primal motivators. And, they are the building blocks of all cultures. When your team’s values are aligned, their vision and actions will be too. Multitudes of studies couldn’t be clearer: when values are measured, developed and operationalized, all indicators go up. A lot.
One definition of leadership is “to be empowered by the group to represent and make decisions for the group.” Values are so primal that it’s foolish to assume that people feel like you represent them, or that you’re making decisions in their best interests, if you haven’t accounted for what’s most important to them. People check out to the extent that they feel like their values are compromised.
Accounting for values expression ensures that your team will be firing together on all cylinders. Leadership entails your capacity to consciously catalyze and capitalize on values as the primal drivers, the sparks, of human behavior.
All 5 steps boil down to a simple question: Have you charged your mojo today?