Culture Design done by employees requires a very specific kind of leader. A vulnerable, emotionally intelligent and accepting of uncertainty kind of leader. What is 'uncertainty acceptance'?
In an environment exhibiting high levels of uncertainty acceptance "schedules are flexible, hard work is undertaken when necessary but not for its own sake, precision and punctuality do not come naturally, innovation is not seen as threatening
." (Hofstede, 2011) Being explicit about uncertainty at work is beneficial. Framing work as a learning problem where there is "enormous uncertainty ahead and enormous interdependence
" is one of the three ways to create Psychological Safety, the number one quality of performing and effective teams at Google (Edmonson, 2014).
A 'Beta Leader
' would be comfortable with uncertainty would be the 'Beta Leader
' (Burbank, 2015)
Dana Ardi, self proclaimed "corporate anthropologist
," studies corporate culture and "how the people in them shape their communities
." Ardi talks about transforming the business world from an "alpha male
" and "top down
" hierarchy to a flat, "socially networked
" business of "Beta leaders
", a place where I think Culture Design would be possible and higher levels of uncertainty acceptance would be tolerated. A 'Beta Leader
' is in her words: an "authentic, connected, self-aware, mindful, creative, collaborative, and humble, designing innovative, happy, ecosystems of strategically curated teams of diverse, empowered employees
The problem is that softer skills are very difficult to learn when the person has become addicted to "Alpha type
" behaviour and has adopted a "fixed mindset
". Dan Bobinsky a behavioural analyst confirms this learning hurdle exists. He found that "Type A
" personalities (or Alpha leaders according to Dana Ardi) would need to get past their fears of learning "something better
" than what they're using at the moment (Bobinsky, 2009). He describes "Type A"
s as people who push their teams to work faster, display anger at insignificant events, criticize employees openly, need to win and tend towards impatience (Bobinsky, 2009).
Bobinsky finds that leaders are less "likely to see the value of interpersonal skills
" and resist changing behaviours that have brought them results in the past.
Not seeing the value in interpersonal skills will be a challenge for leaders who want to connect with their team. "The ability to feel connected is why we're here
"' (Brown, 2010). Brene Brown, a shame and vulnerability researcher, started her research over a decade ago and six months into it she noticed a pattern: the constant appearance of shame in people's stories. Shame is "the fear of disconnection"
, of having something shameful that people will find out about us and stop loving us for. It is the thought of "I am not enough
" and "I am not worthy of love
Brown found that in 'order for connection to happen we have to allow ourselves to be really seen', to be really vulnerable. How can an 'Alpha leader
' let himself be seen if it is all about command and control; a one directional approach. Employees are unlikely going to bring their full self to work if their leader doesn't (Laloux, 2014). Frederic Laloux is of the opinion that employees are unlikely to show up and follow a leader that hides behind a professional mask and does not carry a "strong moral authority
" in and outside of work.
After almost a decade studying shame and fear Brown saw a split: those who have worthiness vs those who struggle for it. Those who had it 'believed they were worthy of love and belonging
', those who didn't lived in a culture of 'scarcity
' and struggled. The leadership challenges for Culture Design:
- A majority of leaders (70%) are Alpha males (Ludeman and Erlandson, 2004) who don't see the value in soft skills such as emotional intelligence (Bobinsky, 2009)
- If Alpha males have a need, they are unlikely to ask for help (Ludeman and Erlandson, 2004) and if they do the Alpha leader coach needs to have "experience standing up to bullies" (Ludeman and Erlandson, 2004)
- We need leaders that are willing to connect, which in other words is to be the polar opposite of an Alpha leader: vulnerable and accepting of uncertainty.