Leadership looks different today than it did just a decade ago. In years past, a leader’s authority was often derived from his or her special skill or expertise. Because a leader had a special skill (or inside knowledge), he was able to take an authoritarian my-way-or-the-high-way leadership style. In just a few short decades, all of that has changed. No longer can leaders rely solely on special information or expertise as a leadership advantage. Thanks to Google, information is just too easy to come by. The internet has leveled the playing field so much that newer generations are demanding a radical new kind of leadership. Organizations need radical leaders.
There are four R's to radical leadership:
- Relinquish Control
- Repeat the Vision
- Regular Communication
The first trait of a radical leader is to be able to relinquish control. This can prove to be quite a challenge for many leaders because, in order to move up in our organizations, we had to prove our competency by completing tasks and completing them well. We often became experts at a certain skill, whether sales, process design, or product development. As leaders, however, it is not possible to complete as much task-oriented work when we are also responsible for leading a team or vision.
In order to be effective, we have to exercise calculated empowerment where we delegate authority to trusted individuals. As frustrating as it can be, it really isn't just easier (in the long run) to just do something yourself. Even if you as the leader have the stronger skill set. More than ever, people want to be empowered to do what they need to do. Empowerment builds trust and creates loyal followers.
How many times have we heard top leaders say that the key to their success was to surround themselves with people who are smarter or better than they are. These leaders have learned that they are most effective when they are investing their time in leadership activities such as vision-casting and people-development.
Radical leaders focus on activities such as vision casting and people development, rather than focusing on tasks they may have previously proven competency in before.
Repeat the Vision
To be an effective leader, or rather, one who others desire to follow, we must have a clear direction of where we are headed. CEOs often explain that their role as a leader comes down to one thing: setting the direction for their company.
Every leader, regardless of the title, role, or position must establish a clear vision. If we are going to lead something, we need to sell our vision so that other don't just follow, but desire to be a part of what we are doing.
When we are leading something, we are often doing this because we are the main advocate for the task at hand. While others may agree that something needs to be done, we each have our own priorities and, therefore, can only choose to push a limited number of agendas. If I am leading something, it is very likely that I am the main (if not sole) advocate for the desired outcome.
Whether we are leading out of responsibility (we have been charged the task) or desire, it is important to remember that it is our job to be the main driver of the vision. We are the CEO of our vision. The Chief Vision Officer (CVO). Our vision sets a clear direction so that other have something to follow. Without a vision, there is no direction. Without a direction...well, good luck.
But radical leaders go beyond simply establishing the vision. Radical leaders understand that it is human nature for excitement and drive to dwindle over time. Some people will get on board after a vision is initially cast...but how long will their loyalty to that vision last? Therefore, it is essential for a radical leader to regularly communicate a vision so that the direction remains clear.
Just as a window needs cleaned on a regular basis in order to provide the greatest clarity, a vision also needs to be re-cast on a regular basis.
Similarly to repeating a vision on a regular basis, a radical leader must also provide regular communication. Communication can be beneficial on a number of levels.
First, communication ensures that everyone is on the same page. How many times have we given someone a basic instruction, only to find out that their understanding of the instruction was much different than our intention?.
Secondly, communication helps to provide a connection between the team. Many articles have been published on how the younger generations desire community. They want to know what is going on, why things are being done, and provide feedback as to the process. They desire a reciprocating community and nothing helps to build a community like regular communication.
Finally, communication helps maintain momentum. Without communication, we can start to feel isolated from the others. Once isolated, our sense of reality can become obscured, and we may start to shift farther and farther from the true vision. I personally have seen this impact different people in different ways. When leaders don't communicate regularly with the team, they can start to "imagine" what the leader is thinking, which is almost never correct, but always problematic. Communication helps to ensure that momentum is not lost due to a lack of understanding.
Communication is the web that holds a leader together with their team.
The final element of radical leadership is to instill a culture of mutual respect. Leaders can no longer dictate over their subordinates and expect excellent results. Subordinates demand respect.
Respect empowers both leaders and subordinates to do what they need to do in order to accomplish the shared vision. Respect is about trusting your colleagues, team, and leaders, regardless of non-material disagreements or preferences.
The truth is that none of us can accomplish everything by ourselves. Two heads really are better than one, and this is the power of a team. If one person, however, tries to control the group and not let the other team members utilize their strengths, then the team will accomplish far less than possible.
Think of a basketball team. If the point guard tries to tell everyone where to go, who to guard, and when to shoot, the team probably won't even score a point. The point guard would probably be better off playing by himself than he would trying to control four others all at the same time.
If the point guard gives a general direction, such as play calling, and then lets each player do what they need to do, the team will come together and points will get on the board.
The same holds true with leadership. If we let our colleagues and subordinates get things done the way they do things, we will accomplish much more than what we can accomplish by ourselves. And, everyone will be happier.
Here are a few practical applications for implementing radical leadership:
- Practice Radical Leadership. The more you practice something, the easier and more natural it becomes.
- Lead Yourself. One of my favorite twitter quotes right now is "leadership starts within." If I can't be confident in my leadership then how do I expect someone to follow me, or better, desire to follow me?
- Enlist Accountability. Finding a way to be accountable will help you to transition to Radical Leadership. Whether a peer, coach, mastermind, or boss, having someone follow-up with you will encourage a complete transition to Radical Leadership.
- Be Intentional. Habits don't change overnight. So, making an consorted effort to practice Radical Leadership will help it to become natural.
What other traits do you see in radical leaders?