Why is the leadership model only one equation within a system of 3 unknown variables?. Spoiler alert: it is unsolvable as is.

Photo by Jessica Felicio on Unsplash
Photo by Jessica Felicio on Unsplash

Back in high school, I remember my first introduction to solving equations.

First, I learned how to solve a linear equation with one unknown “x.”

Some months after, our Math teacher gave us one equation with two unknown variables, “x” and “y.”

Then he sat back after asking us to solve the equation by finding a set of values (x, y) to fulfill the linear combination.

After 10 minutes of all the class struggling and going nowhere, he dropped the bomb on us.

You need as many equations as unknown variables to solve the system.”, said Mr. Diouf.

That’s it?” I said. Then I multiplied the first equation by a constant value, and I tried to solve it.

Well, it won’t work, Mr. Diallo,” he said.

Yes, Mr. Diouf used to call us by our family names.

Why not? I have my two equations, as you asked.”, I answered, trying to look smart.

Well, I forgot to mention the most important word: INDEPENDENT,” said Mr. Diouf with a smile on his face.

Independent, huh?” I did not get it.

Mr. Diallo, you need two independent equations to solve a system of 2 unknown variables. It is like you being a result of two different and unique people.”, said Mr. Diouf as a final drop into my juvenile face!

A. THE RISE OF THE LEADERSHIP MODEL

The leadership model equation.
The leadership model equation.

If you don’t have a leadership model in your company, it means one of those three things.

One, you are a small or medium company, and you don’t need such a framework. Well, you think.

Two, you have it within your organization as an individual. You don’t know about it. Well, you should.

Three, you are a big corporation, and you don’t feel the need to have a leadership model. Well, you should think again.

A leadership model is a framework to guide and evaluate leaders within an organization. You can see it as a vision of the “ideal” leader in line with the company vision.

A leadership model is a great tool to guide and assess people who want to take leadership positions.

A lot of organizations see the leadership model as the only way to drive engagement with their employees.

Most of the energy is focused on building a pool of talents based solely on those talents fitting or not within the leadership model.

However, the leadership model is only one equation of 3 unknown variables.

And to solve the system, we need two more independent equations.

B. THE RETURN OF THE (TWO OTHER) JEDIS

People will sell you a leadership model as the ultimate solution. Yet it would be like telling you that you can put your organization on a monopod, hoping that it will self-balance.

Spoiler alert: it will not. What you need is a tripod.

Followers, the second equation — We often forget to ask what makes someone a leader in an organization.

Well, the answer is quite simple: followers.

There is no POTUS if there are no US citizens.

There are no CEOs if no employees are implementing their vision and translating it into tangible actions.

In society today, we tend to sell to people the dream that we can all be leaders, CEOs, famous, the next Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos.

We need people on all layers of an organization and at their optimum level to drive impact and customer satisfaction.

We cannot just give the pie's biggest shares to the small pool of talents and the crumbles to people in the front line.

We need to invest in the next potential CEO at the same level as the working level employee at the shop floor.

The followers equation.
The followers' equation.

The relationship between leaders and followers the third equation — Not only do we need leaders and followers, but we also need to strengthen the relationship between both populations.

Often the relationship is a top-down, one-way street, where the leader always takes it all.

Because every company has 10% of written rules and 90% of unwritten rules.

And information is more valuable than money in an organization. And who has prime access to the most interesting information?

The answer is obvious: leaders.

Yet, we cannot treat followers as children and then ask them to feel empowered.

If this third leg of the tripod, the relationship, is not strengthened, the whole organization will fall apart.

On one side, we will have powerless leaders with no way to drive any change feeling frustrated.

On the other side, we have employees, disconnected from their leaders, frustrated, and powerless.

The relationship equation.
The relationship equation.

C. THE NEW HOPE OF BALANCED FORCES

We need to build strong organizations by feeding all the legs of the tripod equally, as much as possible:

  1. Leader
  2. Followers
  3. Relationship

We have to develop a strong and agile leadership model. We have to make it available to all employees, not only to leaders and those in line to become so.

Every employee has to feel that they are leaders in their organization, from the shop floor to the top floor.

Accountability must be a two-way street. If we put mechanisms to hold the low-level employees accountable, we must hold the high-level leaders even more accountable in proportion to the resources and advantages they receive from their position.

Often when at the top, leaders become immune to gravity. I mean, they think that they are immune to gravity, the force of gravity.

No matter how high we are in the food chain, our poop will always go down on planet Earth.

We cannot just screen people in the organization based on a biased yet necessary leadership model.

We need to make every employee feel like their voice matters, no matter how “small” of a leader they can be.

Leaders must not build walls around their corner offices on the top floor, living in their Neverland world.

Leaders must build bridges to allow their followers to be able to reach out to them when needed.

Followers are holding the true power. They are the ones in power. They forget it as individuals.

Followers are as important as leaders even if they are not compensated at the same level. They are the doers and the real change-makers.

The relationship between leaders and followers must be a two-way street. Information and accountability must flow equally in both ways.

The relationship is as strong as the weakest party.

So the next time you are handed a monopod as a tripod, don’t let the packaging fool you.

After all, you can solve an equation with 3 unknown variables.

Yeah Science, B..!”, to quote Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad.

Leadership with empower followers and a strong relationship are the true foundations to build an amazing culture from the shop floor to the top floor.

What are your views on leadership models?

How are followers treated in your organizations?

How are you strengthening key relationships between leaders and followers?

Leave a comment below.

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📖 Griot 🧙🏿‍♂️Mentor 🦄 Intrapreneur 💪🏿 Entrepreneur