Moving from Patriarchy to Partnership

Excerpted from Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results, by Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams (Wiley, 2015)

Since most organizations are still led predominantly by men and since most cultures are heavy on top-down control, we tend to create cultures of Patriarchy. Patriarchy evolved in times when most of the population was illiterate. The over-controlling tendency of patriarchy has its place when the workforce lacks the basic knowledge and capability required. It also works well in times of crisis and business turnarounds. It may well be the optimal structure for these situations. However, the global consensus in developed economies is that to compete in today’s complex business environment and fulfill on the Promise of Leadership, we need to move toward cultures of Partnership, toward organizations that are more diversely led, and engage more people in cooperatively creating, innovating, and taking responsibility for the success of the business. The emerging form of organization asks everyone (customers, suppliers, employees, managers, and leaders) to partner in the organization’s success. We call this transition the movement from Patriarchy to Partnership.

PartnershipToPatriarchyOn the journey from Patriarchy to Partnership, leaders, despite the best of intentions, block their own progress (Block, 1993). Early in our careers, before we fully understood how the Reactive IOS operates, we were surprised to watch leaders, deeply committed to transformation, fall into old patterns of behavior (over-control at the top, caution in the middle, blaming from below) that undermined the very change effort they championed. The inconsistency between their behavior and vision was rarely obvious to them. These inconsistent behaviors led to many mixed messages, which created a climate of caution. People avoided taking the change effort seriously. They sat on the sidelines, waiting to see which way the wind would eventually blow.

We are so familiar with patriarchal, top-down systems that we are blind to the ways that we continually “act out” that system, even while trying to change it. Our externally based mental models, identity, beliefs, and assumptions are formed in, and by, that system. We are subject to them. They are on autopilot. Thus we do not see them, nor do we see the inconsistency between the new vision and the way we are showing up as leaders, individually and collectively. This is the primary reason why transformation efforts fail.

When we try to change the system, we run smack into ourselves. We are the primary obstacle to the very future we are committed to creating. Moreover, we seldom notice when we are in the way. If we want to transform the performance of organizations we lead, we must do most of the changing. We cannot just sponsor change or merely redesign systems and processes; we must redesign ourselves! The organization will never perform at a higher level than the consciousness of its leadership. As we change the system, we must change ourselves; otherwise, the change we champion will become the flavor of the month.

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Excerpted from Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results, by Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams (Wiley, 2015)

 

Bob Anderson is Chairman and Chief Development Officer and Bill Adams is CEO of The Leadership Circle and the Full Circle Group. They are coauthors of Mastering Leadership (Wiley). Visit www.fcg-global.com or http://www.theleadershipcircle.com.


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