The Problem With Leadership

by Jeffrey S. Deckman 3. November 2010 18:40

We have a problem with leadership in business today. And that problem is that we are doing it all wrong. We are using the wrong model for leadership.

We are in a historical place in the evolution of American business. We are transforming from an industrialized based economy to a knowledge economy. And it doesn’t matter what kind of business you are in, manufacturing, service, big, small or medium; knowledge is king.

That is both the good news and the not so good news. The good news is that each of us has an opportunity to position ourselves and our companies to be very productive and profitable in the new era that is emerging. The bad news is that there aren’t many existing models of how to build an organization or how to lead people and organizations in the new Knowledge Age. But they are beginning to appear.

So lets talk about what is happening and what we must do to adapt ourselves to the changing conditions that are around us.

Two of the most significant changes coming with the emergence of the knowledge economy are: The removal of the Org Chart as the primary design method for organizations and the elimination of traditional top down, command and control leadership models.

The reason they are fading away is because they were both created for, and by, people struggling to solve the problems that emerged as the industrial revolution forced them to rethink their agricultural age production methods. But we are now morphing into a Knowledge based economy where accessing and activating mind-power is replacing managing manpower as the most important role of management. 

This is so because in todays knowledge economy where intellect, innovation and collaboration and the management of the HUMAN capital of our organizations is now more important than managing its financial capital. 

Financial capital is still very important but it is now in second place to the importance of having deep reserves and a stable supply of the human capital you need.

So one of the first things to realize is that Org Charts see the world in falsely linear terms which only exist in industrialized and mechanized thinking. But the world is not an industrialized mechanized thing. Rather it is a series of complex networks interacting and impacting one another in fluid environments. Which is exactly how a knowledge network operates.

Now you may be wondering what constitutes a “knowledge network”. And the answer can be as simple as any group of people who are interacting with one another to accomplish a common goal; either great or small.

Any time two or more people are working together there is a knowledge network in play. The only question is to what degree is it able to be activated and how much is it allowed to “live, breathe and produce”?

The answer to that question begins with looking at how much that network is forced to operate in the constricted, overly process and controlled environment that exists in traditionally designed and managed organizations.

If leadership can loosen the bounds of the org chart and can allow for more of a “flat” and collaborative management style then the network will provide greater results. Those results then yield efficiencies that lessen the amount of manpower required to generate profits.

This requires current management to trust, encourage, empower and include the members of the knowledge network (aka employees) so that they can contribute their unique abilities and perspectives into the network such that management can refine the intellectual raw material into a fine finished product.

So there are many things that you can do to help you to accomplish just that. 

First of all, you have to be willing to see everyone in your organization as someone who has value, brains and unique perspectives. Then you must assess the areas in which they can contribute, and don’t just decide this on your own. Ask them for their input. Include them in some of the problem solving or brainstorming sessions you are having.

Now not every idea they have will be applicable and not everyone should be in every discussion. Use well placed discretion to make these determinations but open up the process a bit. You may be surprised what you will find and how much you get in return.

You see, as you respect them more, they will respect you more. This will then open and activate the network even more because some of the key components that keep a knowledge network open and productive is respect, trust and safety.

Those conditions create fertile breeding grounds for knowledge networks to flourish and for you to reap the benefits.

So that is the first step: valuing mind-power over manpower.

The next step is to back off of the typical command and control method of management and replace it with a culture that values and rewards collaboration and embraces a distributed responsibility model. Command and control leadership is another tool of the industrialized, manpower centric, era that will fail you in today’s knowledge economy because it inherently values power over intellect. 

And in a knowledge economy you must value intellect and innovation over power otherwise you will fail.

The step in making the shift from command and control to a collaborative is to begin by looking at yourself.

Are you willing to give up power for performance? Are you willing to give up control for creativity? Are you willing AND able to see, encourage and respect the creative capabilities and collective genius that exists within your group and mobilize it to everyones’ advantage? Are you willing to trust and value mind-power over manpower. If you are that is an excellent first step. If you aren’t well then good luck.

While this is a very complex subject there are a few things you can do, short of seeking next generation leadership training, that will allow you to get on the right track. You can do what I call “Leading with AIR”.

AIR is an acronym for: Authenticity, Integrity and Respect. When all else fails, or if you are wondering the best course of action to take the first thing to do is to stop and ask yourself this question: “What would I have to do in order to engage these people, or address this situation, with Authenticity, Integrity and Respect?” 

Whatever you come up with, as long as you are being honest with yourself, will result in your acting with honorable intentions. And it is very difficult to do much damage when you engage people with Authenticity, Integrity and Respect.

Deciding to operate using this new model designed for the Knowledge Economy is very productive and profitable for EVERYONE involved. 

Besides it also gets more oars in the water pulling for you so it saves you energy, time and stress.

And if you need anymore reasons other than that to consider a shift in how you manage then I just don’t know what to say.


Jeffrey S. Deckman has an extensive leadership background whichincludes being a successful entrepreneur; a CEO; Chairman of the Board ofnon-profits, a partner in a Think Tank, as well as being a lobbyist and apolitical strategist. He has been appointed by three Rhode Island Governors toserve on various boards, commissions and councils and has served along sideCongressmen, Senators, Governors, Fortune 500 CEO's and many creative andtalented individuals from all walks of life working to develop workforcedevelopment and economic development strategies in the IT sector.

For the past 6 years he has focused his energies upon developingand teaching The Bigger Know Principles of Leadership which is a nextgeneration leadership and management system designed for the 21st century workplace and its knowledge workers.

 For more information on Jeffrey and his company go to or if you wouldlike to learn more about The Bigger Know Principle training program go




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