One of the things I love doing as an Inc.com columnist is being able to share compelling stories. Especially stories of extraordinary leaders who overcame unthinkable challenges to now teach us lessons of resilience, hope, and a new way forward.
Two years later, he began traveling from his home in Maine to the remote Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. There, he encountered an entire community that did not feel fully heard.
While Hancock initially saw the partial loss of his own voice as a hindrance, he began to think of it as a gift--an invitation to lead differently and give others a bigger voice.
Hancock envisioned an employee-centric company where the primary focus of the organization would be the creation of a vibrant employee experience.
Historically, leaders have collected and centralized power and decision-making control, while employees existed to serve the company. In the model of shared leadership Hancock describes in his new book, The Seventh Power: One CEO's Journey into the Business of Shared Leadership, power is dispersed and everyone is invited to lead. The purpose of the company is to add value to the lives of the people who work there.
"Having found a piece of my own authentic voice, I wanted to help others do the same," said Hancock. He has since identified seven lessons for the age of shared leadership:
1. Find answers from within your tribe.
For centuries, leadership has been marketed as something to be done by the few. But in reality, great people are everywhere. Don't think you need to look externally for solutions to questions that can be answered from within. The best resources are likely already within your organization.
2. Invert the pyramid to serve.
Organizations are ultimately defined by their culture, and leaders have the most power to create it, consciously or otherwise. To achieve shared leadership, the top-down organizational pyramid of most companies must be inverted to first serve, strengthen, and honor the individual. This, in turn, vitalizes the organization.
3. Become the change you want to see.
Leaders need to work first on themselves and become the change. Then leaders must create the cultural conditions that encourage others to do the same. We don't change others; we change ourselves, from the inside out.
4. Localize and shrink the center.
In the age of shared leadership, the individual, not the corporate center, is the focus of attention. If a company sets its employees free, its customers will be thrilled in return. It's time to shrink the power of the corporate headquarters and the C-suite and embrace the individual employee.
5. Listen for understanding, not judgment.
In an environment of shared leadership, everyone must feel that it is safe to express their feelings honestly. The objective is to allow every person to feel heard and accepted where they are, as they are. Understanding is contagious--when others feel respected and heard, they enter a new zone of comfort and security.
6. Practice restraint.
Restraint, not force, is the new path to building consensus, alignment, and engagement. Restraint is the opposite of overreaching; it's having the power but not using it.
7. Broaden the mission.
We are entering a new age of localism in which each business must become an engine of social change. But for this to happen, businesses must learn to think more broadly about their roles and potential for creating change. Businesses must understand that we are all connected and related. There is no future in the strategy of isolation.
Dispersing power is not a difficult task, but creating a culture where every voice matters requires discipline and intentionality. Ultimately, every leader has the choice to either collect authority or disperse it. Shared leadership creates a socially transformative works culture for the 21st century in which employee engagement soars because everyone feels authentically heard.