In the last month, we have had several executives wondering how to increase their leader’s ownership and accountability.The general concern is that they have great folks who work hard, but they are not demonstrating an eye towards the future to either create what is needed or to anticipate what might go wrong. This is coupled with responses they describe as deflection, finger pointing, blaming lack of resources and feeling generally bad that they have let their boss down.
In our traditional orientation to corporate hierarchy also lives patriarchy, in which many employees default to waiting for direction, maintaining the status quo, or hoping to slip under the radar of executive attention. In their minds, getting executive attention will lead to extra work when resources already feel slim, or new changes when change fatigue has already set in. At worst, they are now on the “naughty list” of said executive who seems like mom or dad. Of course, no one wants to admit this out loud. Although healthy hierarchy has its place in certain industries and professions, more often it is just our conditioned response to leadership from the past. And, it is no longer serving our organizations or us.
Those who worked their way to positions of power expect those who have not yet done so to follow their lead. And, therein lies the conflict to resolve. If you want your employees to experience ownership and accountability, they also need to be empowered to create, make risky decisions, and rewarded by you for doing so. Without that, you create dependency and accountability avoidance.
Peter Block recently released his second edition of The Empowered Manager. He says, “Patriarchy is a state of mind and exists regardless of the size of the organization or the level at which you work. The core of this mindset is to believe the world and its people are fundamentally chaotic and self-centered and therefore have to be contained and directed.” It is often easy to look over there and recognize it in other leaders, and not easy, in this day and age, to see it in ourselves. We all like to think we are fostering an empowering work environment. We give much talk to encourage risk taking and espouse our desire for ownership. But in the real day to day, how capable are your legs in walking this out into your organization?
Block goes on to explain how to disrupt dependency inside the patriarchal culture, thus creating autonomy and a spirit of creating something new is an entrepreneurial act. Entrepreneurs by nature take on new ideas with complete investment and ownership. It is exciting and fun, they get energized by change and want to be considered part of the invested effort. We often refer to The E Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber, who distinguishes the entrepreneur from the technician. A technician likes the predictability, structure, and culture of patriarchy. As leaders, we can unconsciously default to this as we want to get stuff done with the least amount of stress. We can also unintentionally encourage our leaders that report to us to be technicians because it is less risky and often easier than managing a group of highly empowered, entrepreneurs. Let’s me honest, they are far more difficult to control.
We need both technicians and entrepreneur’s in our workplace. That is not the point. The point is your patterns of leadership may be creating one thing when you want the other.
So let’s take a look at a few ways of knowing whether you are being an entrepreneur and have entrepreneurs working for you.
As the leader, we recommend you point the finger inward instead of out there first. Ask yourself, am I being truly empowering or I am contributing to the outdated beliefs of patriarchy that create dependency. Peter Block said patriarchy is a mind set. So is empowerment. If empowerment is what you are after, start with one small change you can make in your own leadership that will model that to your team or organization.