The spirit of the Roaring Twenties was marked by a cultural rebellion against classic traditions, inspiring social revolutions around the world. Everything seemed to be possible through the modern technology of automobiles, motion pictures, and radio, which all promoted ‘modernity’ to the world.
One of the most mysterious trends that came out of the Roaring Twenties was the establishment of Speakeasies—hidden sections of an establishment that were used to illegally sell alcoholic beverages and feature new artistic expressions of music, dance, and risqué behavior. To enter a speakeasy, one would need to say a password to the doorman, indicating that the person-seeking entrance was welcome by the owner or other members of the “business within the business.”
In many ways, today’s workplace resembles the spirit of the twenties, with a rapidly evolving workplace, cutting edge technology changing and shaping the culture norms of organizations around the world.
Unfortunately, one of the dangers of today’s workplace is Speakeasy Leadership—the hidden sections of an organization where only a few people in positions of power make decisions that affect the rest of the organization. The practice of exclusive leadership, rather than inclusive leadership practice is alive and well in today’s organizations. But the reality is that the old school leadership hierarchy is an ineffective novelty in a knowledge-based economy.
Today secret societies and “good ole’ boy networks” only work at your local grocery store or coffee shop as a special promotion tool. In a Knowledge base economy, where individuals are empowered through the Internet, smart phones, and social networking that empowers a variety of information and connections that naturally drive higher levels of collaboration and success.
One new workforce member expressed it this way, “I am used to being so connected to my colleagues and playing off each other in the office, via social media, and creating ideas together with high levels of synergy everyday…” The open organization, without the Speakeasy executive office on the second floor, is a robust place where individuals create new best friends instantly and in days create a strong network with everyone on the team, as well as the friends made at their last organization.
Speakeasy Leadership promotes the opposite atmosphere at work where a few gatekeepers of ideas, formulate a plan from the top of the organizational pyramid, then pass it down to the people on the frontline to try and implement—void of passion and intimacy. “I feel like there is a secret group of people running the organization,” says another frustrated employee. “It’s like were sitting in a meeting, and there are two or three people sitting at the table, speaking their own language, giving each other a wink and a nod to each other when I present our teams creative solutions to our organizational challenges.”
Speakeasy Leadership will kill today’s knowledge based company, because today’s leadership model and workplace formula for success is one based in wide-open communication, effective collaboration, social networking, and truly empowering individuals that are encouraged take ownership in the vision—not just contribute to it. Touch the untouchable by bringing energy and productivity to work, breaking down the interior walls of Speakeasy Leadership, creating a community where people work and play together, stimulating innovation, connection, and wild success.
Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant and New Media Producer at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, a non-linear learning program that promotes individual empowerment and collaboration.
7 thoughts on “Speakeasy Leadership”
I agree with much of what you have said and simultaneously wonder when then is it appropriate for a senior leader to make a decision?
Jay, I think it’s appropriate for a senior leader to make a decision, and feel confident in that decision, when they have not only done their own homework, but have sought the advice and opinions of the people closetest to their clients and the individuals that will solve the clients needs. In today’s knowledge based society, no one person owns the solution, therefore must be humble enough to include and involve people at all levels of the organization. This article is not a rebellion against executive leadership, it’s a warning against exclusive leadership. It’s also intended to encourage individual contributors/owners to manage up and create a partnership between self leaders and exectutive leaders–a partnership that is difficult to cultivate in more traditional leadership heiarchy structures. Great question. What are you thoughts on the decision points of executive leaders as it relates to the “flatter” organizations of todays workplace?
Stan, our CEO,irons out our orrganization like a steam iron, using super effective round tables.
Gloria, it’s always great to hear when an Executive is in direct collaboration with their people. I love the way agile development works, have daily scrums, and every voice is valued and heard at the table. Thanks for sharing your blog!
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