As the world fights the novel Coronavirus crisis, leadership roles have taken center stage globally. During crises, people look up to their leaders more than ever, for direction and confidence. This has prompted many executives to reassess their leadership style and principles.
Leadership norms have changed with the times. In the early days, it was the most physically powerful who lead the pack but that changed as validated by this powerful quote from Mahatma Gandhi:
“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”
Today, when exploring leadership norms, individual leaders become the core area of the analysis. In the book, Frei and Morris break this trend and shift the focus from leaders to the people lead by them, in order to assess their effectiveness and achievements. They elucidate that the most important duty of a leader is to influence others and hence it is only through the assessment of the others’ development and growth, that insights to the leader can be gained.
Leaders are people who influence people’s actions even when they are not physically present. In today’s reality of remote working, this becomes more important and hence leaders must focus on empowering the people they are leading.
“As we look into the future, leaders will be those that empower others.” – Bill Gates
Frei and Morris resonate the same thought. They point out, “If you seek to lead, then your focus—by definition—shifts from elevating yourself to protecting, developing, and enabling the people around you.” To illustrate their concept of empowerment leadership they designed the Rings of Leadership.
“The Rings of Empowerment Leadership”
Trust is the core value residing at the heart of this concept. The authors clarify, “Trust creates the conditions for others to be guided by you.” Indeed, people follow a leader passionately only when they trust him and believe that he acts for their best interest.
Once this trust is forged between the leader and the people, they open up to the ideas of the leader and allow him to influence and guide their thoughts without any resistance.
Once the people start trusting their leaders, the leaders have to propel the individuals towards success. Leaders must develop a one-on-one relationship with individuals to set up the right conditions where people can thrive – this is what the authors call “love”. To enable employees to thrive, a leader must also set high standards for them and demonstrate to them that he is deeply devoted to their success.
The next step is to create an environment where teams can thrive. To achieve that a leader must champion the individual capabilities and differences of each employee. The team spirit helps in creating a sense of belonging which inspires the employees to do more than they usually would.
The aforementioned three competencies require the presence and action of the leaders. Frei and Morris explain that most successful leaders influence people far beyond their direct presence and are very conscious that true success depends on things that unfold in their absence.
Strategy and culture form the outer rings of the empowering competencies. The authors elucidate that while organizations and leaders put more emphasis on strategy, which is undeniably important, but culture is of equal significance. Leaders must rigorously work on improving the company culture because just like an inadequate strategy can destroy a company so can the culture. A regular check on company culture must always be done and efforts must be made to give it a desired shape.
The book undoubtedly presents an atypical and expansive view of leadership and makes for an insightful read that no one should miss.