Lead by Contribution not Compliance 

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A Paradigm Shift has Happened

Since the beginning of days, leading people meant telling them where to go and what to do and making sure they complied. For the many, who were “far away” from the power, compliance was brought about by fear. For the few whose work meant administering a share of the power, compliance was brought about by agreement or manipulation. 

This “Compliance Paradigm” Doesn’t Work Anymore

Maybe it’s the fact that illiteracy has been largely abolished and people increasingly enjoy thinking and deciding for themselves. Maybe it’s because hunger is no longer a common threat to those without power. Maybe it’s simply because our societies and workplaces have become so complex, that compliance with one central message, issued from the top of the hierarchy is no longer useful. Maybe there are other reasons. The bottom line is, that to lead by enforcing or manipulating our way to compliance no longer works. 

Employees Long for Leaders Who Take the Contribution Approach

When accepting a new job, employees have already agreed freely to apply their competencies and time at solving a certain part of the organisation’s work. That's why they don’t need leaders to push, bully or manipulate them to comply with their job requirement. They don’t even need to be pulled, nudged or motivated. 

Does that mean they don’t need leaders? 

No, that’s not what I’m saying. 

I’m saying that what employees do need, is to be supported in their efforts to produce, collaborate and navigate in the organisation. And that  leaders must abandon the old compliance paradigm in favor of a contribution approach. 

To contribute in this way, leaders must vary between initiating employee action, coaching people and giving their verdict of a job done or an effort made.  

What’s the Difference? Isn’t Contributing what Leaders have Always Done? 

Yes and no, the handles that a leader may turn are similar. But it makes all the difference, whether the leader uses those handles to enforce compliance or to nurture and be helpful. 

All leadership interventions begin with the leader’s ability to catch the leadership opportunities. The compliance-focused leader, however, will be looking for errors that may be corrected or signs of employee behavior that doesn’t comply with expectations or standards. 

In contrast, the contribution-focused leader will be looking to how his/her own actions might pave a smoother or more productive road for the employee. 

Organisations Need to Support the Contribution Paradigm

All it takes is that organisations formally measure and reward leaders for the quality of support they provide to their teams instead of the opposite. The benefit will be measurable in terms of productivity and talent retention. 

All Direct Leadership® programs and assessment tools support the contribution paradigm.

Learn more about the many ways to use Direct Leadership® in support of the contribution paradigm in your organisation.


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