Much of the popular leadership literature focuses on two types of power:
- Positional power – You are given respect because you are the President of Whatever, the VP of
Things,or the Director of This-n-That and people want to keep their jobs and/or reputation.
- Personal power – You are given respect because others see you have skills, knowledge, ability, and other admirable traits.
Edgar Schein, in his book Humble Inquiry (Amazon link, unsponsored) recognized another form of power that appears in the moment – Here-and-Now power. He defines this as “having the power to help or hinder me in the achievement of goals that I have chosen and committed to.”
In all of our discussions about management, leadership, and power dynamics, we ignore the Here-and-Now power. Who can help me get X done? If I can’t do it myself, I need to recognize the Here-and-Now power of the other – no matter what their Positional status.
This is what the Agile Manifesto creators implied in the following principle:
Build projects around motivated individuals.Principles Behind the Agile Manifesto
Give them the environment and support they need,
and trust them to get the job done.
Management needs those motivated individuals to get the project done – unless they intend to do all of the programming, troubleshooting, and implementation themselves.
In his over 50 years of work in organizational psychology, Schein recognized that our task, process, and get-things-done focus has handicapped our ability to get-things-done well and may even cause more problems than it prevents.
We…live in a structured society in which building relationships is not as important as task accomplishment.Edgar Schein, Humble Inquiry, pg 13
We are now in a time where we need these relationships more than ever. We’re no longer living in Frederick Taylor’s world of “predictable” labor and “Scientific Management.” The laborers are the creators, the “means of production” are now with the laborers and cannot be fully controlled by the management, and there is limited differentiation between Taylor’s “college men” and “workers.”
There is also less predictability in knowledge work. We are back to being craftspeople. We are swinging back to customization from standardization.
This is why relationships and a recognition of our interdependence is so critical. We need each other to do great work. We see this in the research on high-performing teams. We see this in the research on great managers.
Gallup and other management researchers recognize that great managers build relationships. They understand “here-and-now” power and provide the support that helps those that can do the task
Our individual responsibility is to recognize where each of us need help, recognize the expertise of the person who can help us (vs. just telling them what to do), and empower the person helping us to do so.
Schein notes that for us to be truly effective, and potentially prevent rework or worse, we need to take the time to build relationships and trust BEFORE we need to do the task or are faced with an emergency.
Unfortunately, many of our projects don’t allow for relationship-building time. In the quest for “speed” – we neglect the people.