Leadership is often defined from a pyramidal perspective where power is driven downward. It is often exhibited by a “I know best” attitude and an ego centric stance. In these circumstances power is gathered and centralized and leaders exhibit authoritarian and dictatorial stances. They use fear tactics while seeking fame and fortune at the expense of others. Such leadership is often based on our lower nature of greed, egotism and self-aggrandizement.
From a historical perspective when we look at leaders who follow this path what has been the result? Wars, empires of wealth, isolationism, divisiveness, domination over the many by the few, highly bureaucratized institutions, ghettoes, and on a personal level, abusiveness, bulling, selfishness, and moral and ethical decay.
Not all leaders who are at the top of the pyramid act in this way. However, these leaders must also be continually vigilant else they may find that their power slowly corrupts both themselves and others.
What would happen if we turned the pyramid into a circle where power is shared, egotism is curtailed, cooperation and collaboration is promoted, diversity is viewed as strength and respected, and competition operates from a co-opetition frame where everyone wins. Some people would say such a model is too Idealistic and liberal and on a macro level engenders egalitarianism, socialism and even communism.
Leaders of a dictatorial nature would rile against such an approach and use fear tactics and their usurped power to block it. They would claim it wont work and say look what we have built using the pyramid model – highly successful nations, institutions, scientific and technological breakthroughs. Ah yes, maybe so, but for whom and at what cost? Perhaps for the 1% who are at the top, where the rich become richer and the poor become poorer.
Let’s pull this apart a bit further. I suggest that pyramidal approaches are primarily head approaches, whereas circle approaches are primarily heart approaches. If we see them only in this way, however, as one or the other – we don’t leave room for a third way: the combination of heart and head. Tommy Spaulding, in his book The Heart Led Leader, pointed out that there is 18 inches from the head to the heart and so the route to use both is short. He also pointed out that those who use a balance of head and heart achieve more within their organizations than those who don’t.
The heart is where we often place emotions, while the head is confined to rationality. We feel with the heart and think with the head.
In selling we know that ‘emotions or feelings’ sell. Marketing and salespeople appeal to the heart and then rationalize their products by isolating their benefits. People often buy with their heart reflecting an instinctual or impulsive buyer. They buy ‘want’ rather than ‘need’. It’s the head that moderates and controls the ‘want’ and pushes us to purchase based on ‘need’ rather than ‘want’.
People respond when they are approached empathetically, listened to, and dealt with patiently. Yet, many leaders feel that if they lead with their heart, people will take advantage of them - a sure sign that they are losing control.
Control is the headwaters for unbridled power. An over controlling leader stifles creativity, initiative and ingenuity. The over controlling leader doesn’t allow individuals to grow, make mistakes and learn from them. When a leader understands that his/her power comes from those whom he/she serves then he is ready to share power and in the sharing the circle burns brighter and true allegiance develops for the leader and for each other. Together a strong bond of collective power emerges. And, as that collectivity binds, the leader, if he is a true leader, recognizes that he hasn’t the power but that he has nurtured a power of the whole and humbly accepts that.
Hang on to a single flaming candle and we have one candle power that will light up a small space within a room; share the flame with others and we can light up the whole room. If leaders want to grow their influence, they need to share their power. I suggest they can do this more effectively in structures that are circular in nature. What do you think?
Thank you for reading.