Origins of The New Leadership ABCs

In my book Mind Growing, I introduce The New Leadership ABCs as a framework – a tool – for leaders to develop a new vision of leadership. Throughout my career, and as I’ve discussed in my previous blog posts, it’s become more and more apparent that organizations are in dire need of fresh approaches to steering and growing their companies.

I am fully aware that most non-practitioners may not be as attuned to this as I am, so in this article and my book, I try to explain where this framework for current and future leadership has come from.

A Rapidly Changing World

The world is changing – this much is clear to everyone. We can point at many different factors to explain this: the internet, social trends, political changes, and more. But arguably, one of the most important things to understand is that our old approaches to survival and success are becoming less reliable.

In other words: In a world where things change so quickly, people and organizations can rely increasingly less on fixed structures, standardization, and control. The ability to adapt and innovate quickly has become much, much more important.

As Johnson and Scholes once argued, most companies that lose their competitive edge respond by trying to enhance their efficiency and effectiveness. When that fails to have an impact, they try unsuccessfully to recover by switching strategies.

The key mistake that most companies make, in my opinion, is to overlook the importance of their paradigm or culture. What they need is to rethink their fundamental paradigm and make the switch from focusing on management to focusing on leadership.

Management vs. Leadership

What is the difference?

Management is concerned with doing things effectively, efficiently, and in a standardized way. As I mentioned, most companies have a management paradigm.

Leadership entails:
• Charting a proper direction and inspiring people (Ambition);
• Creating teams and individuals who can work flexibly within a defined playing field (Boundaries); and
• Developing and growing people to keep things flowing in the right direction (Coaching and Culture).

For organizations to adapt and innovate quickly, therefore, they require better-trained, more motivated co-workers who can take own initiative within a clear frame. This is what The New Leadership ABC aims to help leaders achieve.

An Example: What Car Do You Want?

At the end of the 19th century, consistent, efficient car production was the main challenge. Companies with standardized procedures, quality controls, and so forth had an advantage – they could sell to many consumers quickly.

But times change. Consistent quality is now standard for consumers, and it’s not uncommon to expect more. Customers can shop worldwide and be confronted with new ideas at every turn: we expect personalization and customization are very normal demands.

What companies are more equipped to deliver on these new expectations – those that are focused on management and control? Or those where “success” still means “success,” but people are free to show initiative within that playing field?

By developing a fresh, current, and future-focused vision of leadership, we can create more flexible, value-driven organizations. Organizations where people are energized and new ideas can flow. This is one of two key motivations for The New Leadership ABC and a challenge that I try to tackle in my upcoming book.

I will leave these observations for the moment, and invite you to consider the role of Ambition, Boundaries, and Coaching & Culture in own organization. Why does your company exist? Would your co-workers respond the same way? Do you feel like your paradigm emphasizes management or leadership? Let me know your thoughts, or reach out to me directly at marc[at]