In my last column, I pondered the millions of dollars organizations spend on leadership development without achieving any significant breakthrough in leadership effectiveness. I think I know why there’s no breakthrough.
Those millions are wasted because our models for leadership training are hopelessly out of date. We are stuck in a mindset of leading organizations from a controlling Industrial Age model that absolutely suppresses the release of human potential. As a result, we continue to train leaders for an age that is receding rapidly into the past. We need to shift our entire mindset if we are to educate leaders for the Information Age.
Consider what happened in the 19th century when the Agricultural Age gave way to the Industrial Age. When the factory showed that it could outproduce the family farm by fifty- or a hundredfold, a lot of people were threatened. Protesters of industry called “Luddites” attacked and burned factories because they were fearful of this new way of thinking. Inevitably, though, 90 percent of farmers had to find a new way to make a living.
Do you believe that the age we’re moving into will outproduce the Industrial Age by 50 times? Do you have any doubt about it? I believe that this new age will eventually bring about a downsizing of 90 percent of the Industrial Age workforce. Imagine what it will take for leaders to succeed in the midst of this dramatic shift.
In “Management Challenges for the 21st Century,” Peter Drucker compares the Industrial Age with today’s Information Age: “The most important, and indeed the truly unique, contribution of management in the 20th century was the fifty-fold increase in the productivity of the manual worker in manufacturing. The most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st century is similarly to increase the productivity of knowledge work and the knowledge worker. The most valuable assets of a 20th-century company were its production equipment. The most valuable assets of the 21st-century institution…will be its knowledge workers.”
In the Industrial Age, you could treat manual workers as interchangeable parts—all you needed was someone who could follow procedures. When all you want is a person’s hands, you don’t need to be concerned about the heart or the mind. All you need to know is how to manipulate people—and that sums up most of what is called “leadership training.”
Many will say, “We know all about the Information Age. We’ve long since made the adjustment. We no longer manage workers as interchangeable parts. We value them as intelligent contributors,” and so on. That claim is tough to reconcile with recent findings from a joint FranklinCovey/Harris Interactive xQ poll. Fewer than half (45 percent) of U.S. workers feel that their contributions at work are valued. About three out of five workers (59 percent) feel that the organization does not tap into the best of their talents and passions.
Consider this analogy. If your stockbroker were allowing three-fifths of your capital to go uninvested, you would fire him. Yet we continue to manage people wastefully with our Industrial-Age mindset instead of leading them with an Information Age mindset. When treated as interchangeable parts, people are alienated from the organization, depersonalized in their work and more motivated to sue than to support the firm when things get tough.
What is the key difference between the two mindsets? It is summed up in what I call the “8th habit” of effectiveness: Find your voice and help others to find theirs.
The “8th-habit” leader sees people differently. She does not view people as “functions” or in terms of a “job description.” She views people as endowed with unlimited potential. She therefore sees her task as helping people see in themselves the tremendous value and contribution they can bring to the enterprise.
Instead of limiting or controlling people, she seeks to understand them deeply—to understand the profound potentialities in each individual, so they can be freely and voluntarily unleashed.
This is the essence of “8th-habit” leadership, what I call “helping others to find their own voice”: To communicate to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves. Think about this definition. Isn’t this the essence of the kind of leadership that profoundly influences and truly endures?
Stephen R. Covey, Ph.D., is co-founder of FranklinCovey, a leading global professional services firm. Stephen is also author of the best-selling “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” E-mail Stephen at firstname.lastname@example.org.