If you love heady, insightful books that look at how we look at things, you will want to pick up Citizens : Why the Key to Fixing Everything is All of Us by Jon Alexander and Ariane Conrad. Here’s the perfect description:
The book shows how human history has moved from the Subject Story of kings and empires to the current Consumer Story. Now, he argues compellingly, it is time to enter the Citizen Story.
Because when our institutions treat people as citizens rather than consumers, everything changes. Unleashing the power of everyone equips us to face the challenges of economic insecurity, climate crisis, public health threats, and polarisation.
Citizens is an upbeat handbook, full of insights, clear examples to follow, and inspiring case studies, from the slums of Kenya to the backstreets of Birmingham. It is the perfect pick-me-up for leaders, found
(Yes, I hope to get these authors on The Empathy Edge podcast!)
Here’s why I love the book:
It is all about rethinking the stories we’ve just blindly accepted and been told are fact, based on … .precedent? Power? Control? The idea that we can’t escape the Consumer story is a myth that is told to us by those who benefit from it.
Same holds true for leadership and what I’m trying to do with my work to change that conversation. We adopted legacy leadership models and workplace cultures because that was all we knew .
The models that tell us:
- Treat business as business and leave your own personal values at home.
- Work is work.You get a paycheck so we have the right to treat you how we want.
- Leaders always have to know all the answers. If they don’t, they should say nothing.
- Information is to be hoarded and used as a lever for power.
- Emotions and humanity have no business being in the workplace
- Leaders need to put up their guards up in order to gain respect.
- Work does not have to bring you joy.
- Soft skills don’t impact the bottom line.
- We have to be empathetic OR achieve high-performance. We have to be kind OR ambitious. Either/Or.
These models are not laws of physics that cannot be changed. They were invented by humans and we have the power to evolve them to better suit our needs.
We can flip the script to the Human-Centered Leadership story:
- Leaders can be whole people and be vulnerable, problem-solve collaborative, and if they don’t have the answers, they can work with others to find them.
- Work can be full of heart AND still be a high-performance culture
- We can have friends at work!
- We can get to know each other personally and still make tough decisions or have hard conversations.
- Leaders who welcome new ideas from everyone are not threatened by them – they are boosted by them.
- Soft skills will make or break your culture and company’s success.
- We can be empathetic AND achieve high performance. We can be kind AND ambitious. We can enjoy cash flow AND be compassionate. Both/And (and research bears this out)
Don’t be so quick to accept stories as the truth. Be smart enough to see the data, savvy enough to see where workplace culture is going, and brave enough to build a new narrative and be the model that proves how it can be radically successful.
Photo Credit: Nong on Unsplash