President Obama’s style has been described as Catalytic Leadership. By engaging stakeholders in the process, those who may desire different outcomes can yet come to support a common solution because they were involved, included and invested. They can say “WE DID IT!

Nearly a year ago, eighth grade English teacher Roland Madore wrote on his blog: “to write [Obama] off as simply a ‘charismatic figure’ is too simplistic. His true power lies in…drawing together a variety of diverse constituencies into his decision-making process.” Whether or not you voted for President Obama, you can take cues from his 21st-century transformational leadership style.

This style of leadership embodies the tenets classic behavioral communications and link back to many of Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s principles popularized in his book Out of Crisis. Glancing back at his work makes me think: Oops!… we did it again.

RJ Eskow, who blogs at the Huffington Post, noted that “Obama’s management style resembles the classic Japanese model which embodies the concept that all humanity — all existence — is interconnected and equal. The operative word…is unity.” If Eskow is correct, Obama’s style isn’t binary, right/left, Democrat/Republican, win/lose… “His goal is group unity around the best possible realistic outcome,” says Eskow. Bottom-line: collaborate for greater innovation.

While organizations tout teamwork, many employees secretly realize that “going along to get along” is the easiest path. But for businesses to not only survive, but thrive, it is imperative to do things differently. Leadership by intimidation, hallucination and ego gratification will no longer work — and it never worked very well.

Take a cue from our new President and engage in authentic discussion and debate. Listen to opinions different from your own. And, use the technique of “crowdsourcing” to help the cream rise to the top. The best ideas will surface if you are open to receiving them. However, it is also critically important to set up a few Obama-like rules of engagement. No drama. No yelling. No finger-pointing. No grandstanding. No infighting. No leaks. Instead, take ownership. Admit mistakes. Gather intelligence. Make the quiet one’s speak up. Gain consensus. Embrace change. Delegate. Demand accountability. And move swiftly.

First identified by journalist Jeff Howe in a June 2006 Wired magazine article, “crowdsourcing” describes the process by which the power of the many can be leveraged to accomplish feats that were once the province of the specialized few.

Howe reveals that the crowd is more than wise — it’s talented, creative and stunningly productive. “Crowdsourcing activates the transformative power of today’s technology, liberating the latent potential within us all. It’s a perfect meritocracy, where age, gender, race, education and job history no longer matter, where the quality of work is all that counts and every field is open to people of every imaginable background… But crowdsourcing has also triggered a dramatic shift in the way work is organized, talent employed, research conducted and products made and marketed,” explains Howe.

Will these leadership techniques be disruptive? Yes. Isn’t your status quo already disrupted? Then, it’s a no-brainer to try something new.

Embrace Catalytic Leadership.

The results might surprise you.


This article originally appeared in the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Magazine


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