Is Your Concept of Leadership Outdated?By Homaira Kabir
I remember my earlier years growing up amongst older siblings, parents, teachers, and elders who mostly told us children what to do. Obeying orders was what our lives were about—while secretly waiting for the day when we would be old enough to order others around.
Perhaps you too grew up in an age of hierarchy, where you found yourself at the bottom rung of the ladder of reverence. It was a world modeled after the agricultural and industrial revolutions, and successfully replicated in families, schools, and organizations around the world.
In less than a generation, we've moved on. We've now entered what author Aaron Hurst calls the “Purpose Economy,” where we each want to be the author of our own lives. And this change is reflected in our social structures, which are now more like networks and less like the command-and-control units of old.
This calls for a new form of governance. Instead of leaders telling others what to do, we need them to make sure that each individual on their team gets to show up fully toward a common goal. Sam Walker, a Wall Street Journal editor and author of The Captain Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World’s Greatest Teams, calls such leaders “captains.” And his research has found that captains are not born. They are first identified and then developed by nurturing a key set of skills that are crucial for internal leadership and a winning culture.
A person who can potentially be developed into a future captain is one who:
Captains are the buffer between management and employees. As such, they are often required to make decisions on the fly, or change course if that's what their team needs to succeed. They are the people who take care of the administrative details so that employees are not burdened with the pressures of dealing with management.
Captains are team players. They do not seek attention or bask in the limelight. Instead, they often work silently to ensure that their team has what it needs to perform at its best. They make the cogs work, and are happy being invisible as long as things are going well. Walker found that their leadership becomes most crucial when teams weather rough times.
Captains have a distinct way of communicating. They're not the ones giving great speeches or addressing their team as if it were a pack. Instead, they circulate amongst their team, talking to everybody individually, listening