“Command and control” is dead

Jacqui Mitchell“Command and Control” leadership is dead or at the very least not particularly effective for the majority of organisations. Instead, 21st century leaders need to focus on inspiring, encouraging and empowering those who work for them. They need to be servant leaders.

The Unreasonable Learners Network (ULN) is a grouping of forward thinking individuals and organisations in Scotland who are striving to improve society by exploring new ways of working together. They recognise the need for a different type of leadership to achieve this. Likewise, in my role as an employee ownership specialist, I can see at first hand the need for a different leadership style for these companies to fully achieve the benefits of a culture of ownership.

Leaders must be visionaries as they need to be able to capture the imaginations of their staff with that vision. They need to be clear on the value that they create and this cannot just be about profit maximisation. Simon Sinek provides some great resources on establishing your purpose on his website. Leaders must be passionate about this purpose and display energy and enthusiasm in achieving this and thus inspire others in the organisations to do likewise. People follow those who inspire them!

Clearly defined values are also very important and leaders must ensure that they are “walking the talk” and are comfortable with being challenged if they are not adhering to these values. Leaders must lead by example and actively demonstrate the type of behaviours that they wish their staff to have.

Successful leadership also requires great mentoring and coaching skills to enable others to fulfil their potential. Essentially they must look to bring out the best in everyone who works for them. Leaders must focus on learning both in terms of enabling individuals to reach their potential but also in terms of being open to changing the way the organisation operates. Leaders must demonstrate behaviours to show that they are genuinely interested in consulting with their employees and welcome ideas and suggestions for improvements. The culture of the organisation should be such that regular feedback is provided but this should be on an informal basis.

Finally, good leadership requires the empowerment of everyone in the organisation. Leaders must create a framework in which everyone can do their best in their respective roles but also need to understand the “bigger picture” and “systems thinking” and share this with everyone in the organisation to ensure that they understand the importance of this also. Good leaders must ensure that staff have high levels of autonomy in their individual roles but also understand the bigger picture and recognise that sometimes the best decision for the organisation as a whole may not be the best for them as an individual or for their department.

Jacqui Mitchell is passionate about building better businesses which have a higher purpose than just making a profit and share knowledge, power and rewards with their employees. She specialises in employee ownership and also works with the Great Game of Business to build companies with strong ownership cultures.

The Unreasonable Learners  is a group of forward thinking individuals and groups with the aim of building a better society through the sharing of ideas and information and the lobbying of government.

3 Comments on “Command and control” is dead

  1. Having read the articles this month, there is a theme around the need for openess and setting a good example for a leader to be successful. Many of the organisations I have worked in, in the past, expected their managers to hold information from staff, often inappropriately. I would say that this was one of the biggest causes of frustration within the workforce and was detrimental to good employer/employee relations.

  2. Command and control is not, regretably, dead. It may be dying. It may be that there are increasing people and processes that encourgae collective responsibility but command and control is not dead. If it were, would we allow for the banking crisis (which is not a crisis to those still in command), the sell off of national assets (Royal Mail shares undervalued and bought by the same institutions that valued it), fracking (not in my constituency thank you), and goodness knows how many more examples.
    I whole-heartedly agree that it should die.
    I whole-heartedly agree that we can build better models.
    I agree that there are shining lights of enlightened leadership.

    But, turketys do not vote for Christmnas and those turkeys that are currently in commanding positions are not very likely to vote themselves out of power.
    We all need to keep up the good work as it is our systems that need to change, not just the individuals that exploit them.

  3. I do agree that command and control should be dead, but agree with Phil that, alas, it isn’t dead yet. It will take the efforts of all of us, including groups like UL to make sure that it is killed off.

    The movement away from the single leader at the helm, be they good, bad, charismatic or moribund, towards collective leadership is paramount if we are to get the sea-change in business and society that we all crave.

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