Sunday, June 13, 2010

Giving Up Control

I've been traveling this weekend and I'm reminded again that air travel is a great way to practice the experience of being out of control - literally. When I travel by air, I can't make the plane take off, I can't make it land when or even where I want to, and I certainly can't make my luggage show up at the right airport. It's a lesson in patience many passengers would do well to practice.

So what's that got to do with leadership? After all, leaders are supposed to be in control of what happens in their organizations, aren't they? In fact, one style of leadership is even called command and control. However, no matter how hard a leader might try to control all aspects of an organization, it's not really possible. Margaret Wheatley says part of our challenge in leaders is that we confuse order and control. She goes on to say, "What if we could reframe the search? What if we stopped looking for control and begin in earnest the search for order.... (The) basic shift needs to be from control to order, from a reliance on formal authority and procedures to a reliance on the self-organizing principles of people..."

This means a very different sort of leadership is needed, a kind of leadership that allows others to do their job well without the leader's needing to control every instance of the work. It requires different kinds of training and hiring, most of all it requires communication and great trust.

Trust like the kind we put in airlines. And we know, for all the terrible headlines on one end of the spectrum and petty annoyances on the other end, the airlines actually do quite well. After all, I don't want them to take off when the plane needs maintenance or the weather is really bad no matter how important I think my timeline. And one way or another I've always ended up back home and I had very little to do with it. Patience, trust, letting go of our needs for control, more leadership skills to think about.

Take care,


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