Everywhere I go these days people are running leadership programmes. You could get the impression that everyone can and wants to be a leader, that managing well and stuff like margin and market don’t matter too much , and that if you fill your enterprise with people who’ve had leadership training, then all will be fine and dandy with the world. Well doh! – is it just my sceptical nature , or does this beg the question – yes, but who actually does the work?
Yesterday I contributed to such a programme, one meeting a valid need, of company bosses whose sector is in the doldrums and who could do with a boost. Much liking the ideas of Jay Rosen and Kathy Sierra , I decided to base the workshop around these. Like media content or a software application or online game we would explore the idea of user-friendliness and discuss what they do as:
Truth is, if a boss isn’t useful , then they don’t need to be there. I know this is a very mundane and utilitarian take on things: as a boss it’s probably much more exciting to see yourself as a conquering warrior, bountiful earth-mother or revolutionary wizard. But all bosses have users: internally all the staff and externally all the clients and customers. If your enterprise has global reach then you may have users in remote corners of the planet. You can’t know too much about who and where your users are.
Once clear about your users, it can be helpful to clarify what you give them. Some of this will be money, possibly job security and job satisfaction, hopefully learning opportunities and a context in which to contribute and progress. You will give them emotions too: hope perhaps, devotion and loyalty, a sense of pride and privilege about where they work – or maybe depression, cynicism and disengagement… if you’ve never seen your world like this…
Your Inner Geek
One of the reasons so many of us love technology is because of what it enables, and – of course – we often have strong emotional responses to design and to what the innovation says about us as a person and the tribe we belong to in the world. As a boss, a refreshing take on your role can involve the questions:
- what do you , your enterprise, products and service enable in your users?
- how do you make them awesome? ( or transcendent, if you want to be posh)
- what superpower do you give them?
- what is of greatest use that you offer?
These are tough questions, but ones that can help clarify direction and mission.
Not a boss, but want to be one? Answering these questions well will increase your employability prospects in this direction.
So I suggest forget the cliches about ‘inspiring leader’ and go for the much more pragmatic epitaph: here lies a really, really useful boss.