Hacking HR to Build an Adaptability Advantage

How Leaders and Managers see their purpose

By Peter Russian on May 9, 2022

The web has fundamentally changed the relationship between organisations and their customers, but has thinking and practice of how we lead and manage people responded ?  (Many) organisations have lost the control they once had over customers - buyers have far more information to inform their choice, and users have many more ways to make their complaints heard. This suggests that those closest to the front line are (a) going to be better placed to understand the increasing demands of an informed customer (b) need to be able to respond to those demands.

Have organisations really responded to this, or are many (most) still deploying traditional leadership and management orthodoxies that were invented as a means of control ?  Even in organisations who have broken the command and control approach, how far has the principle of real empowerment really been established ?   What is the distance between where the decision is made and where it is delivered?

At the heart of this is whether leaders and managers see their primary purpose to be enablers whose role is to nuture, support and develop people to make the best use of their skills and capabilities, or as directors of functions who (even doing "good things" around recognition, development, involvement) "manage" people to deliver an outcome.

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perry-timms_1's picture

Hi Peter. Good to have your hacking thoughts here.

What you say is really interesting in the digitised "opening up" of the relationships between sellers and buyers; providers and consumers. Managers and their people...hmm not much change there. We transact (often poorly) through emails and do through mechanics in meetings.

I like your thoughts on leaders as enablers or as functional directors and "managing" people to deliver an outcome. Atlassian's approach (and we are fortunate here to have Joris Luijke as a Coach for the Hackathon) of "I'll just get out of your way for a while" to allow innovation jams, collaborative sessions and idea fests to take place.

Leaders are there because people need them to be. It takes experience, skill, passion, determination etc. to be a leader and some people need you to be there to do that.

So they are enablers.

Belief in your leader is one of the most powerful motivators I've ever experienced. Their trust in you is a fantastic thing.

Yet their neglect of you, their overburdening of you, their ignoring of you, their under appreciation of you can be such a toxic thing that results in poor application, bad decisions, stifled creativity and just down right sadness.

It clearly isn't just the leader and people do things that let others down but leaders have a remarkable effect on people so they need to be wise, careful and deeply thoughtful about their behaviours. Sadly too many just go through the motions, play politicking games and get all power crazed believing in a delusional sense of reality.

Anyway, you make a valid and interesting point about the approach leaders take and the impacts they have.

Look forward to more of your hacks.