Leadership, freedom or control?

Have you ever run into leaders that feel that they need to keep the control of their organisation?

Control can be a wonderful thing, and there is a sense of ownership, which can create good accountability and safety for people.

But control can also become something not so beautiful. A place where control is the main thing can be a place where it’s hard to release new ideas and people. When I was younger I worked for an employer that was big on control, and of the kind that is not so nice. There was no trust in the people working for him, and he could show up unexpectedly and give you a hard time. Later in life I learnt that his controlling behaviour made people loose their value.

Many organisations are afraid of controlling leaders, and even in my own organisation we have had a process of moving away from controlling leadership and titles. I think this is great, because leadership is about serving and about seeing the people around you and making room for them. It’s in our nature to motivate our team to perform well. To have some level of control is normal, but not to the extent where one or a few people are at the top and the rest become robots or just a part of the system. That is stopping all kinds of creativity and progression.

I have seen processes where we are so afraid of leadership; servant or controlling that we move away from leadership at all. We call it different names, we move into a place where everyone is leading everyone. But at the end of the day the reality is that no one is leading anyone.
This is the danger for any organisation world wide, where we get a different kind of control. This time it is not that the control is in the way, or that we have a top down leadership, but that we don’t really have leadership at all and that means we are moving towards anarchy. Control and anarchy seem to be opposite poles but at the same time there is something they share in common. They control people eider in a direct way or in an indirect way.

Anarchy is a form of control, but out of shape. When everyone is leading themselves, and no one is the final leader. This means that the ME becomes big. I am my own leader, how can others tell me what to do, or who can tell me about moral standards, money, power and sex? After all I am the ME leader.

I become God in my own universe, and this is what often happens to leaders that cannot or don’t have the ability to build teams around them, but even more so if there is no leadership at all.

We end up having the same issues that we often try to move away from, controlling and abusing leadership, but no leadership is as abusing and controlling. From my perspective, this is almost worse because now there is no framework to address issues within. After all, I am also the leader.

I am not a big fan of control and abusive leadership, as I am not a big fan of everyone leads themselves either. We need leaders with a servant attitude and lifestyle.

Keep it simple
Leadership that is not kept simple can so easily become the stumbling block in every organisation. It needs to be clear, simple, and to create the needed momentum that leadership can carry with it.

Flat structure
Flat structure is something I will effect, the flatness in it meaning serving. We are all normal people, and we can be friends, what it doesn’t mean is that we take away leadership and responsibility.
Leadership always comes with responsibility, this is how you can respond to situations that require a leader. Take away responsibilities and you take away the frames that create an organisation..

There is a big difference between an European perspective and an American one. While Europe is strong on organisational leadership, the US is big on fast movements, though they are often short lived and changing repetitively.
So if you want to build a movement that goes into many seasons over time, get some European minds onboard.
Controlling and abusive leadership on one side, and anarchy on the other side, have the same root, in the way that they don’t give room for the freedom needed in any organisation to see growth and people being released and fulfilled.

I will go back to the simple leadership that is of a servant character, that is close to people and that is about creating ‘together with others’. We need leadership that is secure and can move things forward, that loves people, sees the task and can celebrate diversity.

So let go of the control, and let go of the ME god, but at the same time let’s not take away all the borders so there is nothing to lead, for in anarchy there is no future.

I believe that today more than ever before, we need leaders that can serve.

Till next time,
Keep it simple and serve.

Rune Saether


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