“A model of leadership that is more respectful of people while generating greater economic value is within reach. There is no need for complicated methods; three universal values are paving the way for reinventing leadership. They are liberty, equality and fraternity.
These are the words of first-time author and Lyon, France-based Céline Schillinger, an engagement leadership thinker and practitioner who has already been repeatedly recognized for her innovative engagement initiatives in the world of ‘business. It includes the awarding of the Medal of the National Order of Merit by the French government.
Schillinger’s just-released book, “Dare to Un-Lead: The Art of Relational Leadership in a Fragmented World,” is not a theoretical model. As Schillinger describes, “It came from experimenting with new models, new interactions, and new forms of creating value in the workplace.” Schillinger’s experimentation and execution results in a sort of playbook that any organization or leader can adopt. His French nationality might have something to do with the pillars of the book Liberté, Égalité et Fraternité.
What is Liberty?
Schillinger writes: “Far from being an obstacle to the proper functioning of a company, Liberty is an accelerator. It allows people to exercise their judgement, to escape the traps of arbitrariness and to develop their free will. Collective freedom begins with the emancipation of the individual, a transformational experience for anyone who aspires to change agency. To extend freedom on a large scale, a different kind of leadership is needed, putting new and sometimes counterintuitive principles at the heart of managerial practices.
Schillinger believes she had a duty to start with the Liberty Pillar to articulate the voices of everyone she has worked with in the past, including frontline workers, activists and middle managers. It is the people who have a tremendous desire to contribute to “better business” for better organizations, who are prevented from doing so by the very nature of our organizations.
“It’s a shame,” she said. “We must not harm people and our businesses. The goodwill and sense of purpose are already there in our organizations. Schillinger starts with Liberty because it champions an employee’s agency, harnessing and unleashing an unprecedented opportunity for engagement. “It is difficult for organizations to know what to do with people who are so different, who have such aspirations,” she advised.
What is equality?
Schillinger describes equality in Dare not to lead as follows: “Inequalities of status and access to information, relations of domination and obedience have become obstacles to the performance of organizations. A semblance of equality cannot hide the difficulties that organizations face when faced with the diversity of people. Yet a phenomenal opportunity lies before us in the form of networks, and the technology and human connections that enable them. Networks, as organizational design principles, enable new, highly effective collective working practices, replacing dominance with peer leadership that has the ability to inspire agility and innovation.
She insists on not only being more open, but also being “comfortable in the uncomfortable”. When we are more open to the complexities of equality – and not just the adage “my door is always open” – but to meaningful and complex change, good things can happen.
For example, of the 600 references in his book, Schillinger points out that more than 40% of them come from women. “It was an important action for me to establish the consistency of equality [in the book]she said, as an example of following the chops.
What is the Brotherhood?
At the origin of Fraternité, Schillinger wonders aloud if the organization and its people can become militants for good. In this approach, “How do we create true conviviality? ” she asked.
She thinks we could benefit enormously by bringing the traits of the militant movement into the organization. “How can we transform our business from an engineering mindset – a mechanistic approach – into organizational movements that build solidarity through common action in service of a shared cause?”
Schillinger writes in the book: “Brotherhood is a challenge in a contemporary society marked by individualism, distrust and competition. It’s about more than team spirit and efficiency. Focusing only on this will only yield superficial results. True brotherhood stems from a shared commitment to a common cause in a militant movement. Activism – its psychological drivers, its mechanisms of engagement, its tools – offers organizations and leaders an immense opportunity to progress. Corporate activism enables the formation of communities based on intent and impact. These are two key drivers of human and economic performance that can activate the radical reinvention of leadership.
Liberty, Equality and Fraternity: will you dare to de-lead?
To note, Dare not to lead is edited by the fantastic work of editor Richard Martin.
Watch Céline Schillinger’s full interview below or listen to it via the Leadership NOW podcast.
Discover my 4th book, “Carry out. Care. To win. How to become a leader who matters.” Thinkers50 #1 ranked thinker, Amy. C. Edmondson of Harvard Business School calls it “an invaluable roadmap.”