During the industrial revolution, people left farms for factories. Then, the knowledge economy pulled them from factories into offices; rather than leveraging their brawn, companies capitalized on their brains. Today, the world is in the throes of yet another transformation as we enter what values-based leadership expert Dov Seidman calls the human economy. No longer hired hands or hired heads, the most valuable workers are hired hearts, he says – a monumental shift that will affect everyone and every business.
“We need to rethink work as a series of values-based missions instead of task-based jobs,” urges Seidman, who has dedicated decades to helping shape the way millions of employees, managers and leaders behave and interact all over the globe. “The difference between a human and a machine is that a machine can always be relied upon to do the next thing right, but only a human being can do the next right thing.”
Today’s leaders expect more than higher productivity, greater efficiency and more technological savvy; they want people who are creative, passionate, loyal, flexible and innovative. These are the strengths – the behaviors we elevate as being critical to success – that will be the source of one organization’s superiority over another.
Twenty-first century leadership is about connecting with people from within, says Seidman, a moral philosopher and author of “HOW: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything” (Wiley, 2011). His message is simple yet profound, and it’s resonating. In his keynote at the sixth annual Drucker Forum, Seidman’s call for more moral authority and inspirational leadership greatly impacted his audience, including renowned thought leaders Clayton Christensen and Gary Hamel.
But to move ourselves and our companies into the Era of Elevated Behavior, leaders must make important cultural changes to inspire the right behaviors:
- Replace “can” with “should.” “Can” thinking is rules-based and rules require compliance; “should” thinking is centered on values.
- Engage in two-way conversations. Be prepared to truly listen, connect and collaborate with constituents, employees and stakeholders.
- Pursue resiliency and growth. We must learn to sail with sails up in a storm, and to build the institutional and individual capacity for simultaneous resiliency and growth.
- Build healthy interdependencies. It is our responsibility and opportunity to forge new coalitions and mutually supportive relationships.
- Practice inspirational leadership. Leadership is about moral authority that connects, collaborates and generates power through people.
- Set your company on a journey. Replace linear, short-term goals with more ambitious, long-term missions.
“Certainly, machines will continue to get better at many things humans have traditionally done in businesses, but machines will never be the source of enduring advantage,” Seidman concluded in his Harvard Business Review article, “From the Knowledge Economy to the Human Economy.” “The companies that succeed best will be those that focus on the humanity of work, and capitalize on what humans can uniquely do.”
You might also be interested in hearing Seidman’s recent talk at the 92nd Street Y – a conversation with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman about how individuals, nations and business must urgently change how they behave, lead and operate in today’s more interconnected, interdependent world.