Leadership is the highest form of service – part 2

We have all kinds of ideas, what a leader should be like. And these ideas are usually based on the currently valid culture we live in, even if we are not really aware of it. Our current management culture is still based on the principles of the industrial revolution – dating back hundreds of years – and on the foundations of patriarchy – dating back still further. The global impact this form of leadership has brought with it, is clearly visible when we take a look at the state of our planet and our society.

The traditional style of leadership is an obsolete model, whose days are numbered. I know many people who say that they do not want to lead because it is too exhausting and they could not enjoy their private life anymore, because they will be held accountable if something goes wrong. This attitude becomes obvious when we look at the old management model in detail. Leaders in this model are alone – because the model is based on hierarchical pyramid structures, which means that upwards the air gets thinner and the leadership positions get increasingly rare. On the other hand, it goes along with higher wages, reward and glory, the further into the pyramid you climb to the top. This reward is considered as a compensation for pain and suffering for the fact that the higher up you climb, the more you can be drawn to account for mistakes that happen. This leads for example to the following behavior of leaders:

  • A leader has to know everything better and has to do everything better than anybody else, so that no one else can compete for his position.
  • The creativity of the team is dangerous and must be kept small, so that a leader has everything under control and his position is safe.
  • A leader creates a team of customized, yes-saying followers, who do their work, follow rules and don’t ask questions.
  • A leader is not allowed to make any mistakes and if he does, he must try to cover it up.
  • The only joy that a leader in the old model can obtain from his work is power and money. That means to keep a reasonable balance for this exhausting work as a leader he has to make use of his position as good as he can.
  • A leader is not allowed to feel anything – else he is not able to make hard decisions.

And the system maintains itself by the fact that under these circumstances the ones rather mutate to adapted followers, who have their peace, and the others are rather lonely and in danger, but enjoy power, fame and money. It fits well together, right?

The good – or bad – message: more and more people realize that this ancient form of leadership does not work anymore and is not sustainable. Dictators are overthrown, irresponsible politicians go to jail and employees leave their companies because they are not satisfied with their leaders. The signals are clear – but what kind of leadership culture comes next? We do not know! And to achieve the transition into the next unknown culture, we need leaders of a different kind. People who are willing and able to go ahead, into unknown territory without already knowing how it goes! The leaders of the next generation are edgeworkers, bridge builders, pioneers and culture (r)evolutionaries! Perhaps you are such a person?

What will characterize next generation leadership (edgeworking)? The following map is a first attempt to answer this question:

traditional leadership vs. edgeworking

traditional leadership




improvement, optimization

change, transformation, development

command & control

inspiration & motivation

guidelines & rules

vision & context

push (objectives, goals, reward
and punishment)

pull (spirit, trust, community, coaching)

instructions & the leader does it himself

holding space

need to know everything

release of the intelligence of the team

standing alone

creative collaboration

processes & standards

rapid learning & fantasy

property and profit orientation

human and destiny orientation



linear thinking and actions

non-linear thinking and actions

reactive managing of change

proactiv leading through change

managing limited resources

being an unlimited resource of possibility

urgent / short term

long term / sustainable

avoiding risks

taking advantage of opportunities

using the power of the position

create meaning

Such edgeworkers are needed not only in business! No matter which project you serve, what game world you have created for yourself – be it a family, a certain matter, you have committed yourself to, a social project, a department, a group of people with a common purpose, a company or perhaps a country – any type of game world needs edgeworkers who go ahead into the unknown and create a new reality, which the game world can unfold into, to serve its purpose.

It is clear that leaders of the next culture require unusual skills and soft skills that are not available in our ‘normal’ schools and training programs, as they themselves are still subject to the old paradigm of traditional leadership.Here are a few examples of this new soft skills required:

The new generation of leaders (edgeworkers) …

  • have access to their four feelings and use them responsible:

Fear– to be able to go ahead into unknown territories and to really innovate.
Anger – to be able to createclarity, to make boundaries and to keep things going.
Sadness – to be able to connect and be in contact with the people in their game world and to be authentic.
Gladness – to be able to inspire and motivate people and to create a real team.

  • are willing to make mistakes and learn rapidly by feedback and coaching in order to stay effective in unknown territory,
  • have gone through their personal initiation process into responsible adulthood and see responsibility not as a burden but as a source of power to create their game world according to their vision,
  • put themselves at the service of something bigger than themselves (bright principles)
  • are aware of their underworld and their gremlin
  • are able to create possibilities for themselves and for their game world
  • are willing to break rules generally accepted and to question the conventional and the normal for a higher purpose (e.g. for evolution)
  • are willing to make themselves unpopular because as edgeworkers they are considered as the representatives of change and change is generally considered as uncomfortable
  • etc.

How about it?Does this job sound exciting for you?


P.S.: Trainings for edgeworkers, see at www.nextculture-organizations.org