Why this matters
Leadership matters. Although the goal has always been to push human
progress forward, the methods have not always been in alignment
with the times. From the feudal days of indentured servitude to
today’s information age, the what motivating human potential has
seen dramatic change, but often the how has lagged behind.
The three epochs of leadership
Modern democratic society has progressed through at least three
broad epochs in terms of leadership. Th ere has been some overlap
between these stages, but each have unique characteristics that defi ne
the era and the people working within it. Technology innovations
have disrupted previous paradigms, and leadership mechanisms
should have seen similar disruption too. However, it seems that even
as we reinvent the world on the back of our tremendous innovations,
we continue to rely on tried-and-true (read: ‘archaic’) methods of
maximizing our production.
Where has this lack of progression in the science and practice of
leadership led us, but to a world where only 15% of employed people
report being engaged at work! There is a strong correlation between
employee engagement and employee productivity: Disengaged
employees equal reduced production.1 Reduced production leads
to reduced spending, and/or the rapid accumulation of debt. Debt
can lead to lower consumer confidence and the slowing of other key
economic indicators—which is why this subject should be at the top
of the board’s agenda at every Fortune 500 company.
Resistance to change
Why is low employee engagement not resulting in a revolution in
management practice? Perhaps for the same reason that we have
had alternative methods of clean energy production for decades
and alarming evidence that we are in the midst of a climate crisis,
yet we are still burning more fossil fuels than ever. Change is hard.
Rather than appealing to our better natures and promoting our need
to strive for self-actualization, businesses appeal to our baser natures
by stimulating us to chase what is obtained with relative ease: Food,
clothing, shelter, status, and creature comforts. This is what equates
to wealth in our current society, not greater safety, more love, better
esteem, or higher social impact.
A new revolution in leadership
Now we understand some of the reasons why the practice of human
motivation (aka leadership) has lagged, despite the damaging effects
of attempting to fit square-peg leadership into a round hole society.
C-suites and boardrooms are highly reluctant to introduce the kind
of radical change needed to solve the global engagement crisis. That is
why this manifesto is not addressed to them (I’ll leave that to Gallup).2
If you are still reading this, it’s likely because you believe (as I do)
that the wave of change to upend the leadership status quo will not
be a movement catalyzed in the halls of power. This revolution will
be spearheaded by new managers, frontliners, and those described as
I’m appealing to those of you in this segment of the leadership
population because you have suffered long enough.
You’ve committed to enterprises whose so-called noble missions are
You’ve been left holding the bag when restructures have been
required because of sales targets you had nothing to do with.
Your guidance has been ignored time and again when it comes to
what adds value to customers and the people you aim to serve.
You’ve been given a boatload of stress, but no capability to lead at
the most crucial level of any company: Supporting those who interact
with the customer.
You’ve been given some training, sure, like courses with nice names
such as ‘situational coaching’ and ‘high-performance management.’
Still, you find it a struggle to align the needs of developing your people
versus delivering results.
Because you are measured on bringing in the numbers, nine times
out of ten your development—and that of your team—falls by the
Well, all of that stops now.
Together, we are going to go on a journey informed by management
science, from luminaries such as Abraham H. Maslow, Stephen R.
Covey, Patrick Lencioni, Jim Collins, Tom Rath, Donald O. Clifton,
John C. Maxwell, James C. Hunter, and Simon Sinek, to name but
a few. Forgive the lack of diversity in this group. These thought
leaders each have important contributions in describing the need for
a leadership revolution.
I’m calling this latest epoch Leadership 3.0—or the Age of
Let’s look at how we arrived at this crucial juncture.
Leadership 1.0: Command and control
Leadership 1.0 was the period from the end of the American Civil
War through the beginning of the American Industrial Revolution,
up until the end of World War II. This era was characterized by
poorly educated, low-skill rural workers migrating from farms into
cities in search of valuable manufacturing jobs. The assembly-line
approach to productivity was invented to motivate performance,
and line management was born as an offshoot of the overseer role
dominating the agricultural age. Most men had some degree of
military background due to national and global conflict, and topdown
hierarchy was deemed the most efficient way for private-sector
organizations to operate.
The immigration boom came during the same period, as people
the world over left their shores for America in search of streets paved
with gold and a land of milk and honey. Still, despite classist barriers,
hard work and self-determinism became the hallmarks of the greatest
leaders of the age: Rockefeller in oil, Carnegie in steel, and Ford in
transportation.3 (In my estimation, Henry Ford and his Model T
automobile defined this process-powered era with the adoption of the
assembly-line—originally used in slaughterhouses—which transformed
how commodities were produced.) These industries were top-downled,
mass-production-focused, customization-averse, and hard-workpowered,
and following the chain of command was rewarded.
In short, Leadership 1.0 was about individual determinism: Your
lifestyle was proportionate to your level of opportunity, how hard you
worked, and how well you either commanded or followed commands.
Leadership 2.0: Societal change
World War I and II dramatically shifted the corporate status quo,
as women began holding down some jobs previously unavailable
to them. With the men away fighting, American women began to
develop new capabilities and a desire for greater independence.4 The
civil rights movement of the 1960s further diversified the workforce,
as disenfranchised African Americans began to climb the social,
economic, and class ladders. And in the backdrop of all this societal
change, new technologies—principally, the first computers—began to
shift the economy from a purely manufacturing base to new services
This is Leadership 2.0, where hierarchy still reigned supreme but
had to be applied to types of people far less inculcated in military ways
of working. As immigrants, women, and African Americans began to
reshape the corporate landscape, teamwork and managing diversity to
achieve goals became crucial.
The archetype of this phase is President John F. Kennedy and his space
race. To bind diverse groups of people together, leaders needed to both
inspire and manage performance standards for the first time. Individual
determinism was assisted by team and technology.
Lest we forget, it took a team of African American women to solve the
key problems and equations of launching a rocket into space.5 Leadership
was still largely in step with the needs of society and its constituents, but
that would not last for long.
Between the late 1970s and the mid-2000s, the American middle
class expanded and largely prospered.6 New conveniences were
around every corner as technology moved to the forefront of business
and society. New and previously unheard-of industries emerged, as
industrialization gave rise to the modern service economy. Although
many of these companies sought to disrupt the status quo, ultimately
they were corrupted by short-term gain and profit for a few at the
expense of the labor of many.
This workforce was the most diverse in history, not only in
terms of ethnicity, sex, and nationality, but also in terms of sexual
orientation, gender, and generational mix.7 Leaders dabbled in a
few new techniques to generate value and productivity, but largely
maintained the status quo established in Leadership 2.0. It was during
this period that thinking global but acting local, ‘vitality curves,’
matrix organizations, and open offices were born. Corporations added
better, more inclusive words to their mission statements and made
some moderate progress to become more socially responsible, even as
individual dynamism continued to be disproportionately rewarded.
Take for example, Johnson & Johnson (the personal care company),
with its modern diversity and inclusion mission:
“For all employees to draw on their unique experiences
and backgrounds together—to spark solutions that create a
better, healthier world.”
Workers, clamoring for a seat at the table, began to disrupt the status quo
by voting with their feet. Employee retention, brain drain, and talent
wars characterized the era, along with a precipitous drop in employee
engagement and productivity. The number of disenfranchised people
rose, and leadership had few good answers. Meanwhile, companies
reorganized into work groups, hierarchies flattened, the agile method
was born, and responsibility became more specialized. Leveraging
technology became standard operating procedure, as organizations
sought out the best way to harness digital, data, and analytics to
improve performance. Women, ethnic minorities, and millennial’s
occupied more seats of authority than ever before—but still not
enough to upset the defined order of Leadership 2.0.
Leadership 3.0: A new era
It is within this context that we currently find ourselves. Individual
dynamism leads to far less productivity than group exceptionalism
assisted by technology. Unfortunately, most leaders of the Leadership
2.0 period are at a loss for how to respond to the desires of people
with drastically different lifestyles, talents, needs, motivations, and
preferred recognition types than themselves.
The one-size-fits-all approach of Leadership 2.0 must be replaced
by an intense focus on the intrinsic capabilities of each individual, and
the potential synergies within each group of people.
Trust is the currency of Leadership 3.0, because we are
living through arguably one of the most tumultuous ages in
Leaders capable of inspiring, engaging, aligning, coaching,
and coaxing out individual and team brilliance are more in
need than ever before.
Hence the reason for this manifesto. These pages provide a blueprint
for how to lead in this age of technology and group exceptionalism.
Paradoxically, the answer does not lie in systems but in humanity.
The more technology pervades our lives, the greater our need for
clarity, courage, caring, culture, and talent cultivation—all things that
machines cannot create for us.
We cannot wait for C-suite executives to respond appropriately to
We—the managers responsible for the people who create
value for our companies—must do this for ourselves, and