Business Leadership Workplace

Hack: The System of Leadership

January 25, 2014
Elizabeth Drake


Hack: The System of Leadership

The challenge many leaders face today is a worldwide decline in trust for leadership as well as employee engagement.

The problem is that the organizational structure we are working in is one that is decidedly not human. This structure is a hierarchical, top-down, binary, reductionistic, mechanistic system of control, where the role of leadership is to preserve the system and preside over everyone else. However, this top-down structure isn’t working anymore. Employee engagement drives performance and with employee engagement on the decline, businesses are in trouble. Companies are spending time and money to train leaders who come back with new ideas and skills for driving employee engagement, but are finding that things aren’t really changing. Monique Jordan postulates that the reason for this is that little attention is being given to the old environments to which these leaders are returning. She argues,

“Our current leadership system, designed as a means to organize production some 140 years ago no longer serves us.  At the heart of this system is the command-and-control model where the role of leadership is to provide the right answers while the rest of the organization waits to be told what to do… There is widespread agreement, supported by research, that  the hierarchical model where decisions are made at the top and executed at the bottom will no longer work.  Employees need to be inspired by a compelling vision, certain of the goals that need to be met and empowered to achieve them.  The data are clear, employee engagement drives performance [in almost every conceivable organizational metric] and leadership is critical to engagement.”

We need a more holistic understanding of the factors influencing leadership (the verb) such as the systems, structures, and cultures already in place, which don’t necessarily change even if a leader has. These factors are interconnected and interrelated. In “Hack: the System of Leadership” Monique Jordan takes a look at what businesses should think about when reinventing the structures that are stopping them from realizing their full human potential.