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Liberation Leadership

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We held a Twitter question and answer session with inspiration speaker Jim Lawless on liberation leadership and the importance of giving staff the freedom and trust to grow

ILM: Welcome @jim_lawless to our Q&A on #liberationleadership. Would you like to start by telling us a bit about yourself?

JL: Sure, I write and speak on cultural change and building performance and teams to achieve solid results. I run The Velocity Corporation. I'm also a dad, a slowly improving piano player, horse rider, free diver and chair a charity in the racing industry @HEROSCharity

ILM: Can you talk us through the concept of #liberationleadership and why it's important?

JL: The world has changed radically. Most of work is in businesses where concepts such as customer service or innovation are important. To achieve such things, we need intrinsically motivated people. Science tells us how to create intrinsic motivation. We call the things required to achieve intrinsic motivation the 7Cs.

JL: A leader's job is to create a powerful common purpose and an environment where people can connect and contribute to it. We can't create customer service, innovation or passion for results through command and control or external motivation (manipulation)! Most people don't know why their organisation exists other than to make profit. Humans need purpose and the ability to contribute. 

ILM: Liberation requires an element of letting go and leaving staff to get on with things. Why is this difficult for some managers?

JL: Within clearly defined parameters, it does. But that managers care and are under pressure to win. So wish to dictate, naturally. We are also dealing with Ind Age management legacy. Even our schools are set up to deliver Ind Age workers. It takes courage to change! Also, those working in factories, of course, can bring huge innovation as our programs have shown. The old Industrial model is over. 

ILM: Do you think today it's easier to break down the hierarchy given that people are able to find value and meaning in their jobs?

JL: I don't think people can find value and meaning without leaders and organisations seeking to put that at the centre. Hierarchy must be responsible for shifting how hierarchy operates to permit people to find their purpose and meaning. We don't really operate with hierarchy at Velocity now. We have a common vision and meet to agree how we shall each contribute.

ILM: Holocracy is becoming increasingly popular now - sounds good in theory but put into practice, does it really work?

JL: Holocracy, like NLP, is a registered TM, not a branch of management science. We use similar ideas. The ideas work in the real world. We find that most leaders understand it and follow through – some do not and we have to retire gracefully from the engagement. 

ILM: But don't people need an authority figure to look up to? If managers aren't there to enforce rules/regulations, who will?

JL: This is not a world without rules! Nor a world without authority! A common purpose and space to consider my contribution leads me to create rules necessary for fulfilment within a framework and rationale set out by my leaders. But I own my part. I care!

ILM: So how do leaders get the balance between enforcing rules/setting examples but also giving staff freedom and trust to flourish?

JL: I deliver 100 plus keynotes globally per year. "Increased Ownership" is a leadership plea in 90% of these. But few leaders permit it! Same as they get sales results or get the City onside. By prioritising it, studying it, thinking/caring about it. Then there are methodologies to deploy – which are tough as they also require a change in leadership style and actions. Of course, getting the sales results or opening the new plant are also tough. But achievable. As is this shift. Just imagine no more values, posters and cascades! Did they ever work? Now the values arise from the common purpose and the passion.

ILM: As agile working gains popularity, do you think things such as home working can help give employees autonomy they require?

JL: When the groundwork is done to create trust, engagement and ownership, home working is a natural extension, if logistically appropriate. It is not just employees that require autonomy, leaders require it for them. There is no intrinsic motivation without autonomy. In the 21st Century, we need intrinsic motivation - diverse locations and knotty challenges require intrinsic motivation/ownership.

ILM: There might be one or two employees that you don't fully trust to get on with the work - how do you deal effectively with them.

JL: Failure to deal with under performance kills the motivation of your performers.

ILM: Unfortunately we've ran out of time, but any final words from you on the subject of #liberationleadership

JL: Thank you for a stimulating chat! You are writing the story of your life. Who else could be holding the pen? Write YOUR story. 


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