What is a Quantum Leader
By Norman Wolfe, CEO Quantum Leaders
To be successful in today's business climate, companies need employees who are fully engaged, creative and energetic. Yet so many companies never reach this level of performance. Quantum leaders are leaders who create environments that propel their organizations to new levels of success. What is a quantum leader and how has the role of leadership changed over time?
Leadership has always been part of the traditional definition of management: plan, organize lead and control. Yet over the past couple of decades, there has been a tremendous focus on leadership. We are taught there is a difference between leaders and managers. Managers are pushed to become leaders and even individual contributors are challenged to become leader-full. Go to Amazon and search on leadership, and you will be offered a choice of over 16,000 books on the subject.
To understand what is behind this emphasis on leadership lets look at the evolution of management. In the beginning, management's job was to organize the flow of work that would be performed, mostly around the production line. Management did all the planning for production and made sure this well run "machine" was kept under control.
While there was a "leading" aspect of management, it was predominantly focused on telling employees what they needed to do and then "motivating" them to do it. Motivating amounted to various forms of control or intimidation such as incentive pay systems, (think piece parts), or the threat of termination. The goal of management was to get employees to do what managers wanted.
Some might argue that not much has changed since those early days: I contend that a lot has changed. We still want employees to do what the organization needs to have done, but now we recognize high performing employees are the ones who want to do what the organization needs; it becomes their choice not ours.
Since the early days of the industrial revolution, management theory has constantly focused on finding better ways to get employees to improve their productivity, and each new theory has somehow changed the role of the manager/leader. From Taylor's, scientific management approach to the days of Maslow, Herzberg and McGregor's "human relations movement" we see the role of the manager moving away from pure control towards a deeper understanding of employees performance drivers.
This change in the manager's role parallels the change in the work environment. In the early days, work was primarily focused on production, the marketplace was national, the employee force was less educated and the pace of change occurred in years or decades. Today work is primarily focused on creativity and interpersonal collaboration, the market is global, the workforce is highly educated and the work environment is complex and changing rapidly.
Maintaining employee engagement has become critical to an enterprise's success and is no longer a matter of power. We know that employees have greater freedoms, and leaders must truly motivate. Incentive pay or the threat of taking away someone's livelihood won't cut it anymore. Hence the shift of focus to leadership and away from just management.
Just as management theories have evolved we see the same evolution in leadership theories. From participative to situational, from charismatic to transformative and the latest focus, emotional intelligence we are bombarded with how to be an effective leader. This could leave one with the impression that like diet fads, theories of management and leadership are nothing but a string of fads and no one has yet found what it really is.
However, there is continuity from the early days of management theory to today's evolving definitions of leadership. Each new theory is looking to answer the same question: how can we make our employees, and our organizations as a whole, more effective. And each new theory is a response to changes in the workplace, markets and workforce.
Yet we do not lose nor should we give up any of the theories that have preceded the latest theories. The proper way to view this evolution is that each phase builds on and adds to the work that preceded it. From Taylor 's scientific management to emotional intelligence, each theory is part of a larger mosaic and each still holds value today. I suspect that this will continue as long as humans keep evolving. Today we are moving into another stage of this evolution.
We have all heard the widely used phrase, "our people are our most important asset". The next evolution of leadership, quantum leaders, will make this phrase a reality not just a wall poster. Leadership will be centered on the deep valuing and respect for the dignity of the human spirit. The workplace will be a place where the human spirit is honored, supported and enhanced.
"You can work with people more successfully by enlisting their feelings than by convincing their reason", says Paul P. Parker. When people are emotionally secure and comfortable with their leaders, they will always perform better. Working with people's feelings is the essence of quantum leadership, something almost all previous theories have tried to eliminate by focusing on process or structure.
Fully-engaged employees experience their contribution to the organization and the organization's contribution to meeting their needs, addressing their fears and satisfying their personal desires. They not only need to feel empowered, they need to feel important. Attending to the deeper needs of employees first, frees up their energy to then attend to the needs of the organization.
With one Quantum Leader's client, the employees were used to leadership that followed the old command and control philosophy of management. This worked fine for a number of years, but the organization was being held back by the rigid nature of decision making. The new CEO set out to give the people more authority over their departments and the decisions that affected their work.
The organization liked the direction the CEO was going and even understood how it would benefit the company as well as them individually, yet the new level of responsibilities created a good deal of fear and anxiety. Though they didn't like the old system, they knew it and learned how to be successful within that structure. They were comfortable and no amount of rational explanations or appealing to their logic of how things would be better could overcome their deeper feelings.
Though the CEO was holding regular, all-hands meetings to keep the communication channels open, observing the process and talking to the other executives it became obvious this was not working. The reason - he was not addressing the real problem, the employee's feelings. We decided to change the format to smaller gatherings in an informal setting where he was able to create for the employees the experience of feeling truly heard, not about their rational needs, but their deeper felt needs.
Working with the CEO we discussed what the likely responses would be and ways to encourage the sharing of their real concerns and the importance of connecting to them as people first. As anticipated the employees were not comfortable expressing what concerned them, let alone how they felt about it. Knowing this was likely to happen the CEO opened the conversation by sharing hic own feelings of the changes the organization was undertaking, not from the logical mind but from his heart. He shared not as the CEO but as one human being to another.
As the employees slowly began to share their concerns the CEO carefully and heartfelt acknowledged and listened without trying to solve it. Having had their deeper human needs acknowledged the employees were now ready to engage the challenges of changing the organization. To date the CEO has an organization that has not only made the transition but has employees at every level fully engaged and fully committed to this individual that was first a human being that also happened to be their CEO.
Like this CEO, the new quantum leaders will be leaders who "lead from the heart". The heart is the place we experience caring, empathy, compassion and love. Leading from the heart adds relating, connecting, and caring to the rational, analytical, and intellectual process. Employees begin to feel like whole human beings, which in turn frees up their energy, elicits their creativity and their full engagement.