If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes not a couple but a gaggle of leaders to elevate a company. People who have autonomy and each other’s backs, while working side-by-side. Sure, women and men need to throw a shoulder into the gale force of 21st century work life. But they can’t simply lean in. They must also lean on each other.
To step out into the daily crevasse of short deadlines and long meetings, tight budgets and loose loyalties, people need to know their peers have strung a mighty net beneath them. Especially considering most U.S. households have two working parents who must do nothing short of a chainsaw juggling act to coordinate play dates, music lessons, swim practices, teacher conferences, and shopping without dropping a single well-oiled roaring blade at work.
Yes, the sale of whiteboard calendars and black market Xanax are through the roof. But when an organization is made up of radically capable people leading practices deep in their strengths, all aligned behind a common purpose, then the organization and the people in it can tuck, roll, and barrel through anything.
This isn’t about marching in org chart formation, but remaining nimble and fluid. It’s about being collaborative not competitive, dedicated not distracted. It’s about leaning on to leap forward, together. It goes something like this:
Find out what people love to do, and can do with passion and precision. Then, give them the freedom to make decisions and make a difference: to shape a process, a practice, a program, a product.
Freedom can be another word for anxiety without the right support. Each working leader needs to communicate, collaborate, and cover for each other. You’re out for your kid’s first birthday? Sure, I can take that meeting. Your mother-in-law’s dropping in unexpectedly? Of course, I’ll make room on my calendar and on my couch.
Once people are given shoes-off freedom and back-covering rather than back-stabbing, they’ll grow as individuals and grow the organization. These working leaders will be happier and healthier and so will the people leading them.
How do I know this will work? Because for the past 16 years I’ve juggled and barreled through many buzzing obstacles as Chief Creative Officer and now President of BrightHouse. Given the flatness of our organization, I’m looking at how to cultivate a culture of leaders. Which is why we’re codifying this way of working—meeting with each person and figuring out not what keeps them up at night, but what gets them up in the morning. Then, each of us can lean in, on, over, and through anything.