I cannot claim this as an original idea. I was re-reading Tom Kelley’s outstanding book, The Art of Innovation, based on his experience with design and innovation firm, IDEO, and I was particularly enamored by the part where Kelly describes the process of IDEO’s project teams picking their own leaders. The leaders serve at the discretion of the team.
Hmmm. Maybe, just maybe, the rest of us have been going about this all wrong for all of these years.
Thoughts on a New Model In Leader Selection:
It might take a leap of faith to delegate leader selection to the employees, but based on the nearly endless supply of horror stories that I hear from readers, workshop participants and MBA students, I don’t think we’ve cracked the code yet on consistently selecting quality and qualified leaders.
In attempting to identify the potential flaws in my “employees pick the leaders/inmates running the asylum” idea, it helps to think through my assumptions.
Why This Might Work:
- The proper alignment of incentives and compensation with goals and results serves as a check against selecting chuckleheads. If the members of a team or even an entire company have their livelihoods on the line, their own best interests are served by choosing the best-qualified individuals.
- This approach practically guarantees that the “role of the leader” will quickly orient towards a “True North,” that emphasizes serving the team, knocking down barriers, encouraging innovation, and finding and developing even more talent.
- This one may put me way out on a limb with some readers, but here I go. Most people are inherently good and I believe (perhaps naively so), that they would opt for ethical, capable leaders versus those that may be more charismatic but significantly less capable. (Yeah, even writing that makes me believe that I’m moving towards naïveté on this one. Nonetheless, I’m sticking to it.)
The Success Will Be in the Details:
There are a few kinks in this plan that I’ve not yet worked out, including how to keep leaders from constantly seeking a vote of confidence, how to boot out leaders that aren’t performing, who defines what it means to perform and how to make sure that strong values and positive ethics guide everyone along the way.
Long story short, I’m still working on my checks and balances.
Nonetheless, it would be nice to shift the burden to the people to ensure the best and brightest are in place and serving. After all, it works so well in Washington!
And If This Model Doesn’t Work…
OK, if this idea doesn’t hold water, I’m already working on adopting my Jeffersonian-model of leader selection. Jefferson was of the mind that anyone that wanted to hold political office should not be allowed, and that our elected officials should be drafted from the citizenry and serve for a limited period of time. Same here. If you want to lead, there’s clearly something wrong with you, and you are automatically barred.
What say you? Is it time for a new method of leader selection, and how can you help frame a new Leader’s Constitution and an Employee Bill of Rights?