How do you grow a company? How do you translate a vision into sustainably successful execution? How do you build a culture worth writing home about?
These are the types of questions that I’m capturing answers to, so that Awake organizations may have a cohesive understanding of the Awake world, so that each Awake individual knows how they fit into the collective whole.
Leadership and Culture
BTW, we’re no strangers to building companies, we do however realize the magnitude of the opportunity with Awake, to thoroughly change the way people think about the organization of enterprise and labor and capital. I’ve expressed in the past about what we value, our vision, our mission, our cultural mores.
I’ve also written in the past about being OKR-driven, and using a version of the process to plan and run our companies. With this post, I want to go a bit deeper into what I view as desirable qualities in our leaders, and with it perhaps to communicate a little bit about how I think about running companies.
First, you might read how we design our companies, using a network organization model we call ORGtype.
ORGtype and beyond
Leaders vs Managers
And one more thing before diving into elements of modern leadership, I’ll also mention the Awake MBA.
There is a major difference between leadership and management, and we look for leaders that can manage, and managers that can lead. The primary difference is: a manager is assigned a team, a leader gains followers. Awake is a training ground for new leaders and managers, and a proving ground for experienced entrepreneurs and leaders that want to outdo themselves every single day.
So what do we consider key elements of leadership? I think it has to do with self-awareness and self-reliance, and the ability to instill in others the recognition of the importance of these two things.
We’ll get to these. In no particular order, what follows are a few things leaders must be good at. When we fill our companies with folks that have these qualities, we win. On the way, we figure out where to go, and how to get there. And we get to have fun all the way!
Leaders must be able to capture the vision of the organization, and must be able to express it in their own words. They must understand the ethos, the principles, the why, the what, the how, the all. They must embody the vision.
Vision is a difficult one for many, most people think they have clear vision. We want people with vision so clear, they know that they know nothing.
And part of knowing nothing is knowing a bit about everything.
A leader must be able to take on anything thrown at her, because everything is, or will be. And they must know enough about everything else to find the right aka knowledgeable and experienced people for any job that needs doing.
Plans may not be important, but the planning sure is! And the planning process can only happen with the aid of clear sight and insight, which needs sensing, recording, and sense-making.
In other words, data provides the guidelines for planning, and allows for making corrections as activity drives progress. The Key Performance Indicators are those data points that give the most immediate insight into the health of the business, starting from top line revenue and website visitors to supply chain and other metrics.
Leaders need to be driven by data and vision, creating a culture of being driven by metrics and dashboards that everyone on all relevant teams have access to at all times.
The most important KPIs are likely to be about the most important business goals. This is what the Awake Objectives and Key Results (A-OKRs) symbolize, and leaders sign up for annual, quarterly, and monthly goals, and keep them refreshed for a moving 12 month window.
Broader company goals are created and tracked 60 months in advance and more. Leaders must think about extremely long term horizons in order to demonstrate and benefit from true depth of seeing. After all, people always overestimate what is possible in two years, and highly underestimate what can happen in ten.
You know how businesses or certainly entrepreneurs treat their customers really well, going out of their way to make them successful? What if all interactions were looked at from the point of view of a customer / service provider perspective? What if leaders adopted the customer-service view to all their interactions with people both inside the organization as well as outside?
This customer-driven view, not just for the obvious external paying customer, but also for the internal value-co-creator who becomes more successful themselves as successful customers of our leaders and of the organizations they lead.
“There are only customers” should become the view, for everyone has to buy in to what you have to say and do and get everyone to organize around. Being able to lead others through this transformational shift of world view is an essential part of being Awake.
Some organizations used to pride themselves as engineering-first (like Google) and product-first (Apple).
Awake is Entrepreneur-first.
Entrepreneurship is an extremely abstract but quite simple thing. It is the desire and ability to create net new value given an existing situation, by finding more efficient means to accomplish various goals as desired by the parties involved.
At Awake, all leaders are expected to be entrepreneurial, having done startups from zero to one to ten and beyond, that first step, the zero to one being the most critical.
Leaders must become evangelists, and this means they must really love their chosen line of work, all that it encompasses. Leadership is a bit like a religion, it transcends logic and reasoning. Leaders must bring their full selves to the task, true leadership creates followers that go out of their way to achieve outside results that they didn’t even dream of accomplishing.
People want to achieve things, not just their goals, but people want to go above and beyond, they wan to feel actualized. To desire greatness is human nature, greatness in all variety, and a person’s work often determines their self-worth and their self-image.
To enable their teams and organizations to successfully play the game of life (and work and play!) is the mark of leadership, it awakens people into their higher purpose, and allows them to express that through their activities. When one is fueled by such inner power, anything is achievable.
To unlock this latent creativity and daring and excellence, to coach their teammates to win at the great game, that is awakened leadership.
Radical Candor is a great book, I have mentioned it before. One would think feedback being so important, it would come naturally to people. Believe it or not, people would rather be untruthful and call that “nice” than tell the truth about situations and how people (themselves included) need to do or say things differently.
Awake leaders tell the truth, like it is. They are still nice about it, but not by not telling things as they are, that would be insulting. Receiving, giving, and facilitating feedback is a critical part of leadership.
Radical Freedom is a concept I hold very dear to my heart. It implies the following: as long as one does not harm anyone, one is free to do as they please, within the usual boundaries. In business, this translates to having the freedom to get the job done, to do better, to take initiative, to be free to treat the business as an owner would, because not just that everyone has a vested interest in the outcome, but an unlimited, open ended upside that allows entrepreneurial spirits to drive action.
This type of independence from all parties within any organization makes it a dynamic organism full of energy and passion. Leadership should exude this independence, and encourage and inculcate it in others.
Along with this independence comes the animal spirits of successful organizations. Why not create organizations composed of such organizations?
Awake is an entirely decentralized universe, where each person gets a wallet that holds earned currencies (cash) and equity in the various companies the person is active in. As long as each person is delivering to their required level in each organization, everyone is free to run their own organizations as well.
This allows a network-of-networks effect to become a foundational aspect of the Awake Ecosystem. When combined with technology to make it incredible efficient and real-time, leadership is freed to materialize any vision that is important enough to take on. This requires leaders to think not in terms of growing their own networks, but their network-of-networks.
Radical Dependence is another key concept within Awake. It reflects the African proverb “Alone you can go fast, but together we can go far”. A network is composed of other people and networks, and any network can be a commercial successful (or any other type of successful) by ensuring it’s components are successful, for this they must be allowed to operate as their own powerhouse of innovation and profits, and trust that they will get the job done.
Awake leaders must take this trust (but verify) approach to all things in life, certainly all things Awake.
And of course, the only way to achieve successful decentralization is to centralize it. The advantages of decentralization and success will depend critically on the processes and leadership driving the initiative. Decentralized operations, when done right, can be extremely empowering, but also needs people to unlearn the old ways, and to adopt the new, bolder version of bringing your full self to work, knowing that value created will be shared, and everyone will benefit automatically, due to the inherently networked nature of decentralized organizations.
The network itself is centralized, as in, it runs itself, under the guide of Awake leadership.
Awake leaders understand the value of Lean methods (capital L), and operate with extremely high efficiency by cutting to the essence of the thing, waiting until the right time to make decisions (but not later), and treat all work in progress as waste.
Lean is in the DNA of Awake, and of each individual in the organization.
Finally, and remember this list was not in any particular order, there is always action. Anything is better than the stasis of not acting. Generate learning, fail fast, rinse and repeat, move forward each day. Awake has enabled constant and rapid learning loops as a way of daily life, and tracks activity automatically and thoroughly, creating a universal multivariate testing universe for leaders to boldly go where no organization dares.
So. There. Are you an Awake Leader? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org today!