Let Go & Lead
Meg Wheatley Author
Co-Founder of the Berkana Institute

On shifting from hero to host (3:37)

I want to come back to this data that is incontrovertible: That if you want increased productivity you engage people. If you engage people you get their commitment. You get their buy-in. You get their creativity. You get their imagination. All the things we say we need and the way you do that is to engage people. Actually a French word describes this very well because the French word for commitment is engagement. Au-gauge-mont. And um so we have it right there in front of us. So this isn’t about being a leader who is liked, this is being a leader who helps other people discover their potential and their capacity on behalf of organizational purposes. And that once they do, they love you for that because you’ve helped them realize that they are capable of more and they’re not sitting in a little box that says this is your job and don’t ask questions just do what you’re told. So this isn’t about anything except how do we accomplish our goals. How do we create, um, real resilience and the ability to persevere in the midst of such chaotic turbulent environments? The environments are not going settle down.

I think we all realize that. But, so we can either reach for a more control. We can use a fear-based approach to motivating people, and then what you get is more chaos and you get disengaged people who will not contribute anything. And then the leader feels this is a real vicious cycle in a lot of organizations; people disengage because no one’s asked them to be involved for a long time. And they feel subservient and somewhat oppressed and, and at least disrespected. The disrespect is ramped in most organizations right now at the employee level. I think at all levels actually. But in, in the face of feeling disrespected and invisible and not being asked to contribute, they disappear psychically and emotionally and then the leader looks at them as this robotic dead from the, the neck up work force and says well now I have to apply more pressure.

More controls. More incentives maybe. But more punishment for bad behavior and that of course just pushes people further and further away. So to really change our view of what kind of leader we need to be, I’m using the language that we need to shift from hero to host. And I mean that in the sense that instead of it being all up to me as the leader, even if it’s well-intentioned, I need to find ways for people to feel as welcome and invited as they would if I were inviting them to my son’s wedding or my child’s baptism or some big event. And to pay attention to the sense, it’s not only an invitation but it’s actually, I need you. It’s a necessity. If you don’t come there’s not party there’s not celebration. And if you don’t join into the work then we’re not going achieve anything good.