As a business culture we rely on this comforting cacophony. The great white noise. It’s secure; and it reassures us.
As leaders, we’re constantly butting heads with the volume. Looking around we’re screaming “Listen to me, I’m a leader.” All the while, our leadership becomes part of the beep of the coffee maker, the bickering back and fourth about ideals and the dull drone of the status quo. We’re inundated with noise. In fact, sometimes we welcome the noise. After all, it’s easy. It’s the deafening culmination of settling for the easy a-systemic design.
Bruce Mau asks you to “imagine turning the sound off, so that people can see what you do.” The reason our leadership is drowned out isn’t that the noise exists; it’s how we lead in it. In an earlier business world, perhaps even as recent as a half decade ago, we could lead with volume alone. Loud messages worked. Today, we’ve exhausted our cultural bandwidth to hear and we’re faced with a significant opportunity to lead better, relying on unprecedented optimism and the hard work of design.
Design is optimism. It’s putting things where they belong; where they can be understood and set to action. Design is also a commitment, not only to seeing what needs to be fixed, but to fixing it in a way that uplifts the whole system. This distinction is what differentiates leaders from noise makers. You can mosey through many organizations and hear people bellowing and baying their ideas out to stakeholders, but the volume drowns out ideas. This tired, loud leadership has run its course.
“Imagine turning the sound off…” What you’ll see is that today, valuable leadership comes from holistic, designed, systemic ideas that stand out from the noise. The era of blasting leadership is over and we each have the opportunity and responsibility to lead with unprecedented optimism and tenable design.
How can we better design the systems of business so that, at every level, our strategies are understandable, executable, and optimistic? How can we employ our greatest stewardship and turn the sound off to let our actions speak louder than words?