Leadership Evolution: From Command to Inspiration

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We are long past the days of slavery and command and control leadership structures which were used on people that were seen solely as units of production. Today we respect one another for the unique beings of value that we are. To lead in an era where creativity requires passion it is no longer enough to just order or influence people we need to inspire them into action in win-win situations.

Leadership styles have evolved, becoming more people centric over the last 50 years. This evolution does not necessarily come solely from the benevolence of the leaders. I think most leaders would probably feel quite happy in the Leadership 1.0 paradigm where they have more control over their followers. The evolution, I feel, comes from the expectations of followers.

We have over time come to understand (and demand) our intrinsic rights as unique beings. We expect that we will be treated fairly and with respect. As social mobility and job mobility increase there is less holding us tied to a bad situation, a bad job. If we are unhappy, we leave and for this reason those who create the work environments must now create better environments.

The following graphic shows the evolution of leadership over time.

The phases are:

Pre-leadership : I will generalize the earliest and longest period in social development as a time of no leadership. A time of 'might makes right' when people had no rights (no options, no choice) and they did what they were told to do. Those with power commanded and the followers obeyed. Might makes right. Coercive power, the power of life, was the primary form of power exercised by leaders to build the pyramids and the Great Wall of China.

Authority: Over time there came a realization that people deserve a little respect and that slavery is bad. Leaders gave order and followers obeyed, usually to the minimum standards required. For the most part, this form of leadership based on reward and legitimate power, is basically management and not leadership as we know it today.

Influence: True leadership starts with influence. Rather than give direct commands that must be obeyed the leader uses methods that move followers to choose to act in a desired way that the leader wants. The desired way is for the most part what is required by the organizational objectives. Work is still 80% "about the organization" and 20% "about the member". Expert power becomes more important and visionary and heroic leaders are sought.

INFLUENCE: the power to cause changes, on the character, development, or behaviour of someone, without directly forcing them to happen. Based more on reason and extrinsic motivations.

Inspiration: We come to the realization that if we want commitment and creativity we need to respect the value of the follower not just as a unit of production but as a person with inherent value and rights. No longer is it enough to be able to influence people to do want you want done, now it is necessary to have people do something because THEY WANT to do it. The environment is now 60% about the organization and 40% about the team member because there is buy-in and alignment to create a win-win scenario. Referent power becomes more important and 'super-leaders' are required.

INSPIRE: to make someone want to do something with excitement a high level of feeling or activity. Based more on emotion and intrinsic motivations.
  • To fill with enlivening or exalting emotion.
  • Divine guidance or influence exerted directly on a human mind or soul.

To summarize:
Leadership 1.0 = Get people to the game
Leadership 2.0 = Get people to join the team
Leadership 3.0 = Get team to win the game

For top level organizations and top level people the concept of "follower" becomes the concept of team member. No longer is it good enough for someone to just take orders, they must now understand their role on the team and work in a responsible manner for the good of the team.

Most companies are finding influence based leadership to be good enough for their every day needs. 'Skunkworks' organization, highly creative research and development organizations require an inspirational environment to maximize innovation.

In the social sector, based on purely intrinsic motivations of volunteers in voluntary associations, influence is not enough. Only inspiration can create value for the people that give of themselves to make a difference.

One of the key responsibilities of the leader is to turn groups into teams.
Real teams are built on inspiration based bonds.

Extra - Vlatka Hlupic and The Management Shift

Vlatka Hlupic, in her book The Management Shift: How to Harness the Power of People and Transform Your Organization For Sustainable Success, also describes a similar paradigm shift in management moving from the scientific management style of Frederick Winslow Taylor to the management of objectives ideas created by the founder of modern management Peter Drucker.

Taylor sought to improve industrial efficiency
while Drucker improved organizational effectiveness.


Level 1 organizations have a culture based on fear and employees are isolated and disengaged. Not much gets done. Fortunately there are very few such organizations.

Level 2 organizations have autocratic leadership and there is a blame culture and employees feel overwhelmed. People do the minimum they can get away with.

Level 3 organizations lack trust, people are micromanaged and do what they are told to do and not much more.


Level 4 organizations are emerging which have a teamwork ethos based culture that is strong on enthusiasm and collaborations. Employees are purposeful and passionate and the organizations are more innovative and value creation is higher. Leadership is horizontal and distributed where leaders lead by letting go.

Level 5 organizations have an unlimited mindset and unbounded culture. There is strong team cohesion with a sense of passion and purpose for work.

Professor Hlupic says, "A fundamental shift in performance, innovation and engagement happens when a critical mass of individuals move from level 3 to level 4. A dominant mindset becomes “Enthusiastic” and culture becomes “Collaborative”. Leaders lead by letting go, power and authority are distributed, there is a strong teamwork ethos and employees feel purposeful and passionate about their work. Integrity, passion, purpose, transparency, accountability, team ethos and a caring culture are embedded in this level." - source and more

Updated 19th-March-2015 at 06:10 PM by Željko Zidarić