This book builds on the premise that ‘power’ and ‘influence’ are two entirely distinct leadership trajectories and that a leader’s true influence does not really reside in the tiresome contrivances of formal authority. Besides, the “formal fund of authority” in any organization is always going to be “limited” at any given time. The challenges that organizations face today are far too complex to lend themselves to the virtuosity of a few key players at the top. We need to harness the creative leadership talent of each and every one at all levels of the organization. Leading without Power presents a roadmap to empower ordinary leaders-to-be to accomplish extraordinary results by tapping into their intrinsic power within. Such leaders draw their power by empowering others; their mainstay is self-power rather than position power. This introductory chapter presents an overview of the context and importance of leading without power. It lays out a unique framework for such approach that undergirds the three key dimensions of leadership: Knowing, doing, and being: 1. Discover your gifts. 2. Polish your gifts. 3. Share your gifts. The journey of leading without power starts with discovering one’s innate gifts of humility and integrity, honing them with the passion of purpose and creativity, and culminates in finding fulfillment in humbling serving others. Recent studies have shown that values traditionally associated with spirituality—such as integrity, honesty, trust, kindness, caring, service, and humility—have a demonstrable effect on leadership effectiveness and success. Leading without power builds on these qualities in a permeating framework of know, do, be. Such leaders find their fulfillment in empowering others and in putting service before self.
If there is one leadership trait that is universally upheld by all scholars and practitioners, it is probably the integrity of the leader. Research has shown that integrity is the one quality that followers prize the most in their leaders. Bennis and Nanus, two preeminent leadership writers, opine that leadership is all about character and integrity matters most. Kouzes and Posner, having surveyed over 75,000 people around the globe over the last 30 years, discovered that honesty emerges as the single most important ingredient in the leader-constituent relationship. Integrity is also the key determinant of role-modeling. Albert Schweitzer is reported to have said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” This chapter takes an expansive view of ‘integrity’ as a quality that is integral (or organic) to one’s being. Interpreted in this sense, integrity is as much a means in leading as it is an end in living, for humanity has sensed always that wholeness or integrity is an absolute necessity to make life worth living. Personal Integrity and trustworthiness (transparency) are also considered important components of building trust and credibility. The cultivation of integrity requires a good measure of self-awareness and self-knowledge. The importance of self-knowledge cann hardly be overemphasized in both the personal and professional realm. “Leadership’s First Commandment,” states a Harvard Business Review editorial (December, 2001) is to “Know Thyself...No tool can help a leader who lacks self-knowledge.” Through the force of leader examples and pertinent narratives, this chapter provides pointers how leader-to-be can nurture this quality in discovering their authentic leadership voice.
Chapter 2: Humility: Leaders’ Constant Companion
Of all the leadership qualities, humility is perhaps the most difficult to develop. Ben Franklin tells us in his legendary Autobiography that the reason humility as a virtue is hard to cultivate is because by the time one gets to be good at it, one becomes proud of it! Humility is the key ingredient of leading without power for only the humble can truly serve a cause higher than themselves. Howard Schultz, the founder and chairman of the Starbucks chain of coffee shops, says that the great leadership expert, Warren Bennis, once told him that to become a great leader you have to develop “your ability to leave your own ego at the door, and to recognize the skills and traits that you need in order to build a world-class organization.” 16 Leading without Power presents a unique perspective in addressing the vital question: What it means to have nimble leaders and nimble organizations in a world where there is still a top down approach to leadership? “True humility,” said C.S. Lewis, “is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” However, personal humility does not mean absence of professional will. For example, in Steve Jobs, we find a paradoxical combination of compelling humility (“stay hungry, stay foolish”) and fierce professional will (“making a ding in the universe”). This is the essence of leading without power: Knowing the truth about ourselves, helping others to discover this truth, and boldly living out this truth together moment to-moment in a life marked by integrity and humility. Bill George, the exemplary former head of Medtronic, who popularized the concept of authentic leadership, includes humility along with purpose, transparency, and integrity to define authentic leaders. In fact, humility is both the means and the goal. Leading without power is a leadership style whose time has come. It is style which puts followers in the forefront of leadership line. However, it requires supreme humility.
Chapter 3: Courage: Most Visible Leadership Trait
All leaders need courage. It is a key constituent of effective leadership. Surprisingly, a very little attention has been paid in the leadership literature to this foundational leadership competency. Generally when courage is mentioned as a virtue, it conjures up extreme situations such as hastening into a building on fire in order to save someone. Courage in business, however, seldom resembles the heroic impulsiveness of such life and death situations.Courage is complex leadership trait that has two components: physical and moral. More often than not, people tend to focus more on the physical aspect. This chapter focuses on the moral aspect of courage as a part of character-based leadership. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Courage is having the strength of character and conviction to persist and hold on to ideas in the face of adversity and opposition. Leaders are charged with the function of charting new paths, pioneering new ideas and brining tasks to fruitful conclusion. This calls for moral courage and a deep fund of patience. Leading without power involves several situations where moral courage is practiced as a part of daily work in the organizations in terms of doing the right thing. It also means communicating with condor in organizations. 18 Courage is not a virtue one is born with but it is something one can learn and develop. By citing examples from history and contemporary business scene, this chapter presents a road map for cultivating courage for aspiring leaders.
PART II: POLISHING YOUR LEADERSHIP GIFTS
Chapter 4: Purpose: Making Your Life Matter
Simply put, purpose is the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.19 Recent research has confirmed that a sense of contribution to a larger purpose constitutes a critical component of all meaningful work. Of all the species, human beings are unique in being endowed with the faculty of free will. In the freedom to choice lies the uniqueness of human journey and perhaps also its greatest predicament. We can either remain entrenched in a life helplessly driven by the baser impulses or reclaim our divinity by proactively choosing to be guided by the light of higher reason. What happens when our need to find meaning is not met or is thwarted? It creates a sense of meaningless, a feeling of inner emptiness. Frankl calls this feeling of utter meaninglessness “existential vacuum.” It is a mode of existence in which “people have enough to live by but nothing to live for; they have the means but no meaning.” 20 This chapter explores how effective leaders seek, live, and lead from their highest meaning and purpose. Without formulating our aim, we drift aimlessly amidst the sea of life, like a ship without rudder. Finding a profound meaning in all we do lends a certain sanctity to our toils that goes deeper than life’s material ploys. Without work, said Albert Camus, life rottens. But when the work is soul-less, it stifles and dies. Pursuing meaningful work provides an abiding purpose to our life and redeems our existence through our contribution. It is the quest for meaning that keeps the battle of life going in face of the inevitable. If meaning is about discovering one’s unique gifts, purpose is about sharing those gifts for the good of others.21 Leaders who lead with gentle influence positively seek meaning and help others find meaning as well. Leading without power is about living a purpose-driven life and pursuing purpose with passion. Having discovered their highest purpose, such leaders find fulfillment in helping others discover and live meaning in their lives. One key feature of this chapter is the presentation of guidelines on how leaders create impact through purpose.
Chapter 5: Mastery: Sharpen Your Saw
This chapter starts with the premise that leaders who are mentally weak and wayward cannot achieve a compelling and consistent organizational vision or mission. Leadership is an ‘inside-the-mind’ affair. Mind matters most in leadership as all battles are first fought within the mind. Right thinking and right conduct serve as the two unshakable pillars of leadership. The personal mastery involves keen awareness and a profound understanding of disempowering mental traps. A critical survey of the recent corporate failures and frauds reveals that the three traps (excessive desire, anger, and greed) are present in every dysfunctional organization, manifested to the highest degree in its leaders. In the recent decades, we have seen the havoc played by unbridled desire, rampant greed, and uncontrolled anger in all sectors of our society. Hence the need to for higher self-restraint and mental discipline. This chapter notes that a strong work ethic is not enough to build an empowering work culture; after all, a hard-core criminal also has a very strong work ethic. What is needed is a work ethic guided by ethics in work. Leaders who intend to lead without power need to invest in evermore personal mastery. This chapter also briefly broaches the subject of work-life integration.
Chapter 6: Creativity: Noticing New Things
Creativity has now come to be recognized as important in education as literacy.23 IBM’s Institute for Business Value has named creativity the single most important attribute for success in leading a large corporation in the future. Some of the world’s most iconic companies are embracing creativity as a way of life. Now more than ever, to stay competitive, leaders must inspire a vision for creativity by fostering an environment of workplace engagement, encouragement and commitment. It has been rightly observed that one doesn’t manage creativity; one manages for creativity. Treating creativity as a form of competence that can be nurtured, this chapter reviews some of the mounting research that shows that creativity is very much a science. Creativity has been defined as the art of “noticing new things.” One preeminent researcher once told this author that creativity lies in becoming a “first-rate noticer.” There are basically three approaches to defining creativity: person-focused approach, process-focused approach, and product-focused approach. Creativity is often associated with arts and expressed in terms of individual gift of artistic originality. This approach conjures up the image of a Mozart, a da Vinci, a van Gogh or a Pablo Picasso. The process approach to creativity focuses on the process of discovery leading to novel ideas and applications. However, the associations made between creativity and artistic originality often lead to confusion about the appropriate place of creativity in business organizations. Teresa Amabile, who has spent forty years researching creativity at Stanford, Brandeis, and Harvard, notes that, “in business, originality isn’t enough. To be creative, an idea must also be appropriate—useful and actionable.”26 To foster a pragmatic understanding of creativity, this chapter distills the leadership lessons of three iconic companies in the arena of creativity: IDEO, Apple, and Google.
PART III: SHARING YOUR LEADERSHIP GIFTS
Chapter 7: Humor: Leading with Levity
This chapter captures the role of humor in effective leadership. Sense of humor is the most underrated leadership trait. And yet experience shows that majority of the successful leaders have a healthy sense of humor. Commenting on the seeming similarity of etymology of the words humor, humility, and human, one writer has observed, “In leaders, humor and humility seem to go hand in hand. They're like a counterbalance for self-confidence, something that keeps their feet on the ground and their egos in check.”27 The humor (in which Freud found something “liberating,” “sublime,” and “elevating”), in fact, is used as a skillful device in effective communication for precipitating deeper understanding and as an expression of new levels of insight. Humor has also long been touted as “Laughter, the best medicine.” Empirical research has also validated the role and importance of humor in the work domain. A meta-analysis of positive humor in the workplace is associated with: “employee health (e.g. burnout, health) and work-related outcomes (e.g. performance, job satisfaction, withdrawal); with perceived supervisor/leader effectiveness (e.g. perceived leader performance, follower approval); and may mitigate the deleterious effects of workplace stress on employee burnout.” In the similar vein, Avolio et al., exploring the links between leadership style, the use of humor, and workplace performance observe, “The use of humor in organizations has been associated with improving morale among workers, creating a more positive organizational culture, … and increasing motivation.”29 The inclusion of several witty leadership parables—as skillful means— in this chapter is a humble step in the lesser known art of leading with levity.
Chapter 8: Compassion: Empathy for All
This key message of this chapter is that at the heart of effective leadership lies genuine and compassionate caring. Effective leaders have a caring concern for the well-being of all beings. Research at the Center for Creative Leadership (CLL) using a battery of tests during 1995-1998 found that the only statistically significant factor that sets apart the uppermost quartile of successful leaders from the lowest quartile of unsuccessful leaders was caring—the ability to give and receive affection. 30 However, it is not the sentimental variety of compassion that is referred to here. The compassion that leaders need to cultivate is born of “seeing reality as is” with the eye of wisdom without judging it as good or bad. It is about going from self to others by the necessary shift from “I” to “We.” Recent researches in science and psychology reveal that compassion is also good for us. The chapter delves into the “neuro-mapping of compassion,” building upon the work of Richard Davidson, the work of the Dalai Lama, and Joan Halifax. Recent studies in neuroscience inform us that compassion enhances neuro-integration and mobilizes immunity. If compassion is so good for us, why don’t we choose our leaders based on compassion? The chapter also explores role of empathy in leadership success. Empathy involves identifying, subjectively, with the emotion of another and experiencing concern for that emotion.33 Compassion is the highest emotion and greatest value. This chapter takes an expansive view of compassion. The journey to compassion involves five distinct steps: antipathy, apathy, sympathy, empathy, and compassion.
Chapter 9: Service: The Ultimate Leadership Advantage
Selfless service is the highest principle of leading without power. Those who have a genuine desire to serve need not to wait for the occasion of authority to fulfill it. This chapter builds on the seminal work of Robert Greenleaf who first suggested the concept of servant leadership.34 Greenleaf informs us that he got the idea of servant leadership by reading Hermann Hesse’s book entitled Journey to the East. During the journey, a humble servant named Leo does all the chores for the travelers. He keeps the group together through his songs and high spirits. And when Leo disappears, the group falls into disarray and the journey is abandoned. Later on in the book, the narrator finds out that, Leo, whom he had taken to be a servant, was actually the noble leader of the group.35 Gandhi once said that ‘the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.’ This is the essence of what we know as the servant leadership. Effective leaders become instruments of the Whole and work for the well-being of all beings. Only those who have renounced personal ambition can truly serve. Without relinquishing self-interest, service is but an inflation of ego. In fact, leading by serving is leading without power. This is clearly evident from the influence and gentle power that many leaders have commanded even though they did not hold any official title, office, or position. Accordingly, this chapter will profile two such leaders: Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi. Their lives and legacy represent the epitome of servant leadership.
Epilogue: Empowering Lessons for Life and Leadership
By way of summing up, this chapter consolidates the emergent leadership lessons as presented in the previous chapters for the sake of clarity, conciseness, and convenience. It distills the key competencies of leading without power, starting with integrity, humility and courage, and culminating in compassionate service marked by leader’s selfless service and contribution. Leading without power is about profound realization that leadership is first and foremost a responsibility, an opportunity to serve and to contribute rather than a position or a title to wield. Only with this realization of engaged responsibility can we hope to nourish leadership in our lives and create harmonious organizations, organizations that are built on our collective wisdom, compassion, and service. In essence, leading without power is about nimble leaders and nimble organizations. It is about discovering our authentic voice and expressing it in influencing others in a wholesome manner. What is to give light must, said Victor Frankl, must endure burning.36 In the final reckoning, leadership remains an art of self-giving and self-transcendence and our leadership style an extension of who we deeply are.