Do you sense that the way organisations are run today has been stretched to its limits? Do you notice the struggles companies encounter when they try to improve their agility? Bureaucracy makes culture change and process improvement very hard and this is why many of us are longing for truly ‘soulful’ businesses based on passion and purpose – businesses that challenge stiff systems full of dread and drudgery. Intuitively, many of us don’t believe in the old-school solutions anymore. But how can we go about creating ‘businesses with a soul’ in this complex world?
Towards flatter organisations
The organisation of tomorrow will need more agility, innovation, connectedness and transparency. Traditional pyramids cannot deliver these qualities. Therefore, companies must shift from a hierarchical structure to a flatter form of management, in which all employees fully understand and are deeply involved in the company’s goals and are empowered to make decisions. Guidelines on processes will replace rigid policies. This means adopting a culture that promotes these attributes alongside the employees’ personal goals. Only then can we create a more powerful and meaningful way to work together. But this asks for a serious and personal transformation. After all, as Gary Hamel said, ’bureaucracy and self-management are ideological opposites, like totalitarianism and democracy’.
Self-awareness is key
As part of this radical personal transformation, enhancing self-awareness is paramount. Awareness requires recognising and acknowledging your fears and accepting them as part of your inner reality. Without this awareness you are likely to be a victim of old patterns, which ultimately limits the opportunity to show your authentic colours. This will in turn diminish the trust you have in your own capabilities. The result is a sort of uneasiness, a feeling that ultimately makes everyone feel less secure.
Becoming an agent of change
This transformation also means that you should pay equal attention to the ‘what’ of the goals as to ‘how’ to achieve them. It means that you can handle uncertainty, ambiguity and dilemmas until a new ground emerges. True transformation also means that you can be passionate and compassionate as well as vulnerable and determined, all at the same time. Above all, you need to be true to yourself.
Leaders must do this inner work in order to bring out the best in the organisations they lead. So if you aspire to be an Agent of Change, try to be as mindful as you can. What is it that others will consciously or unconsciously pick up from your presence? What fears, what desires, what needs drive you? Consider asking somebody to be your ‘mirror’ and help you be mindful. The more trusting, loving, caring, but also the more clear-minded and determined you come across, the easier this transition will come about.