As a reverse fairy tale for the CEO set, the reality television program Undercover Boss is fascinating, not so much in the witness-to-a-train- wreck mode of the rest of the genre, but because it is so revealing of our conflicted relationship with "the boss." The premise of the show—that the only way to get a clue about what's really going on in his (or her) organization, is for the boss to go undercover on the front lines—is all too often the actual reality in organizations of any size. Yet, at the same time, the view of the boss as the ultimate authority with the heroic power to swoop in and save the day—whether that means paying down a mortgage, granting an instant promotion, or banishing a reviled policy—holds sway in real life as well as on "reality" TV.
Innovation can happen by chance, without a determined effort or specific methodology. But when it does, it's more like luck than strategic progress. While there is a role for serendipity in strategy – being able to take advantage of pleasant surprises -- too often, that's the only way companies approach innovation: with fingers crossed.
If organizations are going to evolve from the hierarchical, command-and-control structure that has dominated over the past century to a new model where trust, transparency and meritocracy are guiding principles, they're going to need to change the way they develop leaders. To gain some insight into how the leadership development process is adapting to the challenge of creating leaders who are inclusive, progressive, and able to look beyond their organization for great ideas, we turned to the MIX community. With our partners at HCI, the Human Capital Institute , we sponsored the HCI Human Capital M-Prize on Leadership , and we asked you to share your stories on leadership development.
For all of the time spent chasing after what looks like success, too many of us have only a dim sense of what it feels like. That's clearly a wide-spread cultural malady, but it acquires special force in the world of work. Organizations invest billions annually on a success curriculum known as "leadership development," which ends up leaving so much on the table. Training and development programs almost universally focus factory-like on inputs and outputs—absorb curriculum, check a box; learn a skill, advance a rung; submit to assessment, fix a problem. Likewise, they leave too many people behind with an elite selection process that fast-tracks "hi-pots" and essentially discard the rest. And they leave most people cold with flavor of the month remedies, off sites, immersions, and excursions—which produce little more than a grim legacy of fat binders gathering dust on shelves.
The work of leadership changes dramatically when wage slaves become artists, argues MIX Maverick and bestselling author Seth Godin. The best leaders make their organizations havens for heretics by suspending religion (rules) whenever possible and focusing on faith (deeper purpose).