How do we lead “without followers” from within a group, business or a corporate environment?

In what ways is it possible to exert our alternative leadership philosophy within the sometimes-constraining rules, regulations and boundaries of an organization?

We embrace openness. We enable. We empower. We inspire.

On a personal level, we make a daily practice of recognizing, understanding, and reeling in our egos: the want — as a boss, manager, supervisor, or fellow employee — to exert your “rightness” over others’ “wrongness.”

A leader without followers can still teach others the proper ways to perform, carry out duties and maintain order without over-exerting a stifling ego. In the end, the less ego and control you burden others with, the more reliable, assertive, innovative and creative they will become.

Openness means remembering to let go. Granting space. Allowing some self-determination.

Ironically, when a traditional leader embraces the Lead Without Followers philosophy, she realizes that the more she lets go, the more others around her begin step up — not step “over” you or “on” you or “around” you (that’s your ego talking), but step up. As in, assertively grow. They cultivate confidence in themselves and faith in one another.

This terrifies a leader who is subscribed to the old, outdated leadership paradigm. It terrifies stifling, egomaniacal, overbearing traditional leaders just as it once terrified monarchs of old when the printing press threatened to educate, enable and empower the peasantry.

So what if the peasants begin to read?

Is repression the only means to attain your business’ end-goals? Or can gentle reforms — reforms that complement our instinctive longing to be free, our simple human nature — streamline your organization in new and brilliant ways?

Openness also allows employees and so-called “subordinates” to assume responsibility for choices, decisions and actions. This is a good thing. It means that you trust the ones whom you pay tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for their time, presence and work.

Even better, openness begins to create positive patterns of habituated thought and activity within the culture of your working environment:

  • Openness means that the entry-level employee will offer up a money saving idea that none of her bosses pitched at the meeting
  • Openness means that the last employee to leave for the night will choose to take an extra second to turn off the office lights, rather than leaving them to burn all night because “it’s not my problem”
  • Openness means that the positive culture that you incubate at work might spill into the personal lives of your employees

Imagine your workforce benefiting from healthier relationships because of their inclination to assume greater responsibility and exert mindfulness. Imagine stronger family lives extending into local communities and towns. Imagine how profound and far-reaching the implications could be on a national level — imagine positive change in the world.

Openness grants trust. Trust is freedom. Freedom allows choice. Choice beckons responsibility. And responsibility creates leaders.

You can either act as a tyrannical king ruling the fiefdom with an iron fist for fear that the peasants will revolt, or be the “backwards revolutionary” — a visionary with insight, a guru¬†with forethought — who sees beyond the confines of his own ego and “this is the way things have always been done.”

Embrace the printing press. Allow the peasants to read. They already deserve it, and you will be better for it.

Begin to willfully empower your employees to become conscious components — invested players — in the greater mission that your team works to embody every day.

One day, some years ago, I assumed responsibility and quelled a slight inter-office scheduling conflict. Upon hearing what I had done, my superior reprimanded, “Next time, check with me before you start delegating.”

The king didn’t want his peasants to read. Now, I write books.

…Do you really want to be a king?

Flickr photo credit: Lawrence OP