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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Voluntelling Vs Empowerment - Are You a Boss or a Leader?

Rogers confirms its Exec. VP sent this email to "a small number of people" RE: campaign rally for John Tory.

Was this email from a person in a position of authority to staff asking them to support a Board Member inappropriate?  I would say so, yes, but I can also understand the other point of view.  

Without context, it's impossible to know if this same VP sends out emails to staff saying "Joe in Sales is putting together a team to enter a cancer run, he'd appreciate your support!)

Neither of these emails, coming from a position of power, are really clever, as the very nature of being a boss demands a certain amount of cow-towing.  

This doesn't, however, mean malicious, manipulative intent on the part of the person in charge.  I know that I've personally learned the hard way that what you say when you're in a position of power can carry more weight than you intend it to.

Which is why it's so important for people at the top of the ladder to make pains to ensure they are communicating effectively with their teams, rather than expecting the reverse to happen - which is how business tends to functions.

Where this reality is most egregious, however, is unquestionably in politics.  Youth who get hired by elected officials to work in individual offices and are paid by the taxpayer through the Legislature are held to account directly by unelected, unaccountable political party officials.

If a political staffer isn't donating to the party, isn't attending rallies, isn't knocking on doors during campaigns, they have no hope of promotion within government offices and can often find themselves discriminated against.  

Aggressive, alpha-bosses like this relish telling kids what to do and asserting their authority by demeaning others.  Worse, they feel that this is appropriate behaviour from people in charge.

The rationale goes like this - if Part X doesn't win and maintain a majority, then all the political staff lose their jobs.  If staff don't get this reality, however they feel about it, there is no place for them in politics.

Politics, of course, is a micro-targeted, sales-heavy, attack-reliant field that churns through people like a paper shredder.  Those who last start to look at the whole world through a partisan lens which shapes their every relationship and interaction.

In this model, the boss never fails, the people do.  Responsibility is never assumed, but deflected. Sadly, we end up with people at the top very good at sales and blame, but not necessarily good at actual work, coordination, collaboration or problem-solving.  It's why we've got some many structural deficits in the first place.

On the other hand, how many excellent Not For Profits with great visions and mandates struggle to get money, retain volunteers or attract skilled talent?  They focus on the work, not on sales and in this world, it's sales that defines success.

This is not how Leaders operate, but leaders aren't about building audiences, raising funds or selling memberships.  Leaders empower people and bring them together, putting them in the driver's seat.

We don't have a work culture that promotes leadership; in fact, there are a lot of great leaders out there with little chance of climbing corporate ladders because they're too busy doing rather than selling.

The people in charge have it backwards.  Instead of demanding people come to them and sell what they have, we need to see more recruitment and talent-searching, with leaders taking time to find out who's leading themselves from whatever capacity within an organization, or within society.

Across the board, I'm seeing more and more money being spent on sales, more and more people being left behind and massive structural gaps appearing that simply can't be solved by aggressive ladder-climbers with tunnel vision.

If we're ever to establish a sustainable society, we need to embrace a true leadership model.

After all, in a democracy, isn't supposed to be the people who are in charge?

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