Throwing your power into the laps of others and running away is equivalent to throwing a grenade.

Leadership and power — there aren’t two more loaded words in the language, and especially in the vernacular of organisations explicitly trying to be different. Over the last 20 or 30 years, the dogma of business and growth has focused on the shift from management to leadership.

What’s the next wave of business psychology/methodology that promises the (slightly sickening cliche) ‘next paradigm’?

An allergy to the sensate nature of the idea of power can paralyze. I’ve been in rooms of evolved, self-aware men who have become so fearful of the power of their voices that they sit and say nothing — turning the atmosphere into some sort of passive-aggressive vortex. What happens next? What happens in an organisation where we suppress our need to speak, to act, and to steward from this place of inverse fear? Is this the only way we know to give space to the heretofore un-powerful and those not given the opportunity to express their leader-ly qualities?

Is this some sort of Tyranny of Structurelessness for the twenty-teens?

Or is it a midwifing process of letting go and letting come. Is it only redolent and recognized in those who have done the work and notice what happens when the space is made — or is it this weird passive-aggressive movement of the head and eyes and slight wave of the hand as invocation to others to step into the space?

How scary!

Come hither into the space of leaders; I trust you, but not enough to help you — I want you to join me, but not enough to stand by your side.

I’ve read the book — I know I need to step aside and allow the voice of the people to enter the space and have not only a voice, but to enact the will of the organisation (because the organisation has its own will).

No one has told us how to do it — but I am a leader, I meditate and listen to podcasts. I know I need to let go, because this is unsustainable and I don’t have all the answers (but wait, I kind of do — this is why I’m trying this!)

There is a patent difference between letting go and making space, and actively participating in the space.

Just because you are making room doesn’t mean you are stepping out. You only need to be ready to learn and grow within a new environment — a new space that includes everyone who is interested in participating; if you step into this fertile land you will change. The land itself will change with the presence of all that inhabit there, and one day you will be able to take very long holidays. But not quite yet…

We’ve all experienced the many forms of leadership and power. It’s too simple and too passive to imagine that it’s just the way of the world — because authority is what we’ve known from the beginning. Of course when we are children it’s important — those older than us patently DO know more, are more experienced, and protect us from that which can harm. Authority and power are different. One protects, the other controls. Authority in business is sometimes a necessity — delegated authority as a signatory on contracts, or at the bank. Neither is it wrong or inappropriate to delegate authority for decisions, or for actions. But that doesn’t make that person a leader, nor does (should) it make them more powerful. On the contrary, it does make them in service of or to.

When leaders decide or realize that they are in service, everything changes.

But this is not a decision that is made on behalf of. For your board to say ‘OK John, starting Monday, we ask you to be at work not as a leader but as a servant’ is as strange as for you to turn up on Monday morning as a ‘servant’ and tell the people they now have all the power and need to be equal leaders. By ‘telling’ you are still exerting the power and control. It’s still parent-child. It’s only in adult-to-adult conversation that the power shifts and becomes distributed.

Sometimes when leaders ‘discover’ that it is possible, that there are case studies and years of practice in organisation who are self-managing, the feeling of relief, of a burden being lifted and ‘seeing the light’ that the impulse is to stop everything in service to the transition. Sometimes it can be a quick process, but sometimes it’s incremental. And sometimes it’s painful, and destructive. But for those who feel it in their being, in their body, it’s the only thing that can happen, for when the emancipation of potential emerges, everything shifts.