Sunday, June 8, 2008

Grassroots Leadership

FastCompany is typically known for hyping fad management techniques, methodologies and processes. Typically my BS filter is very high when reading anything from them.

But this article in FastCompany about "Grassroots Leadership" is hand-down one of the best I have ever read on management. When I read this for the first time 3 years back, it changed the way I ran my projects at work.

Grassroots leadership, as the name would suggest, is about real empowerment. Empowering ground-level people to make decisions in what they do everyday, and allowing them to innovate. People on the ground are in the best position to know what is the right thing to do. From a leadership point-of-view, the difference here that a leader needs to have is to understand that everybody is talented. If you make people feel that they can make decisions and carry them out on their own, as well as listen to their feedback, they will do wonders for you. Ultimately, hand out responsibility, not orders or directions.

The other things highlighted -
-- Allow people to enjoy their work. If people don't enjoy their work, find a way to remove the boredom. People who enjoy their work make fewer mistakes.
-- Understand the intent of a process rather than the various steps in the process. This understanding will lead to better decisions. Usually processes are there because something went wrong when doing this particular thing in the past. If you understand the purpose of the process, you can bypass standard operating procedure and stand out.

But personally the real message I took away from reading this was about authenticity. Quoting from the article -
"All I ever wanted to do in the navy was to command a ship. I don't care if I ever get promoted again. And that attitude has enabled me to do the right things for my people instead of doing the right things for my career. In the process, I ended up with the best ship in the navy -- and I got the best evaluation of my career"

I'm lucky to be working in something that I am really passionate about. So it was easy for me to get to the next level, and focus only on the quality of my work, and weeding out the distractions and the politics. I stopped worrying about promotions, and what all I needed to do to get to the next level in the org chart. And this has got me very quickly to where I am today. Nowadays, if there is some innovative project that needs to be done, I get the call first to see whether I want to take it up.

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