Why You Can Lead & Not Be A Witch (i.e.New Layers of Leadership)

10 Sep

Image pinned from Kate Anderson

Have you heard about the ‘new leadership’ concept? It essentially suggests that instead of changing our leadership behaviour, we add a few layers of “and” to our approach. What does that mean? Herminia Ibarra explains it well in her HBR Blog Network article entitled, “Is ‘Command and Collaborate’ the New Leadership Model.” She writes of Peter Grauer’s apparently contrasting results found in a study overlooking leadership qualities valued within a company:

“The top performers had contradictory attributes, what he called the “and” factor: They had future vision but were tactically strong; they provided strong guidance but were open to challenge; they relied on extensive networks but were also capable of moving fast (i.e., unilaterally); they were hands-on but also empowering.”

Interesting, no?

Let’s tie this into our Rapunzel theme by considering the Enchantress, otherwise known as the witch, who locks up Rapunzel and keeps her trapped within the tower – until, of course,  the enchantress freaks out at Rapunzel’s betrayal and banishes her long-hair-now-chopped adopted daughter to the middle of the desert.  (Do you ever feel an urge to banish co-workers to the middle of a desert when they don’t jive with your ideas or produce good work?)

So there’s the Enchantress managing her princess. It’s a high level job, she’s in charge of the magic, the tower, the characters and – above all, the story. Her decisions are the decisions in narrative; she sparks the changes and pushes action forward. The Enchantress is, in a sense, the ‘commanding’  leader, and like many commanding leaders, she has one key flaw: an inability to relinquish control.

Can you imagine how this story could been different if the Enchantress, after ‘recruiting’ Rapunzel (though some rather aggressive negotiation) let her young woman have some freedom? If you want the talent, then why not allow them to flourish? Leaders offer vision, direction, guidance . . . but if you think the ‘new leadership’ concept sounds right, then you’ve got to also consider that Leaders offer opportunity, challenges, and space to get things right. What if the Enchantress had adopted more balance in her methods – maybe then . . .

  • The locked tower of authority becomes in/out accessible with an escalator installed: the tower is no long a prison, instead it’s a safe place from which to start adventures and ideas.
  • Overprotection stops being an issue: Rapunzel (your team, and your assets) no longer feels smothered, which is a good thing, because smothering is a great way to get people to leave your company.
  • Competition is les of a threat. Would Rapunzel have run away with the first boy she’d ever met in her entire life if the Enchantress hadn’t created such a dominating environment? If you team is happy, then that in itself is an incentive to stay and do awesome work.
  • Use of potential: Rapunzel turns out to be a really resourceful storybook character in the end – she raises children in the desert, all alone after being banished from the tower by the domineering Enchantress. Imagine if she and the Enchantress had instead teamed up their capabilities! They could have used their combined resources and talents to be the most ass-kicking fairy-tale team in the forest. More like a dynamic duo than damsels in distress.

Let’s consider the opposing ideas: Sometimes leadership means setting guidelines, enforcing expectations, and being an example of dedication. Other times leadership means letting go of the control,  encouraging other people to challenge your ideas and grow to a higher level of capability.

Are these ideas really a contradiction, or are they just about finding the balance between command and collaboration? Sure it’s a challenge, but the first step is to look around and see which way you lean. Are you controlling? Do you give up ideas too easily? Where do you place your trust and how do you exchange with your team?

What’s your experience with leadership? The comments field (if you click into the article) is available on the bottom right.

P.S. Peggy Nash of the NDP will be at the upcoming WXN Ottawa breakfast meeting discussing this concept of the New Leader. Let me know if you’ll be there – I think it will be a great conversation, and, of course, an opportunity to connect with other fantastic women. See you on the 18th!

Camille Boivin is founder of Sister Leadership, bringing her knowledge of resilience, perseverance, and changing perception to others. She aspires to  help women explode their success. For more posts and experiences, join Camille at her Sister Leadership page, connect on Twitter, and follow on Facebook. Welcome to the Sister Leadership community!


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