Partnership is the new Leadership

Twin Cities HR Association (TCHRA) had their Annual Spring Conference on May 12th this year and this was my first time there. It happened to be one of the biggest conferences I have been to (after #PACON Minneapolis) with more than 400 attendees from the HR fraternity and more than a dozen eminent speakers. The conference started with a keynote session by Ty Bennet , the very charismatic and energetic speaker ,who wears many hats as the CEO of Leadership Inc- a speaking and training company with a mission to empower individuals and organizations, Entrepreneur and a Best-Selling Author, who was also adjudged the Top 40 Under 40 in 2012.Ty’s session was on the Power of Influence and how ‘Partnership is the new Leadership’ .Effective leadership has always been a matter of researches and discussions since a very long time and there are numerous theories ,views and concepts surrounding it and still we don’t have much clarity on what actually works the best for a leader. Ty’s idea of ”Partnership leadership” seems to be very promising and relevant to the current times.

Ty started his engaging speech by asking this very direct yet important question, ‘What do you want from your followers as a leader?’ Have you thought of it for yourself? If not take a moment and try to find your answer for it. The crowd had multiple answers like dedication, innovation, team work and many more. But the winning one was “commitment”.75% of the 5000+ leaders Ty surveyed with this question answered unanimously that commitment is the most important quality that they expect from their followers. Now the question comes down to how as a leader you can create this commitment and with the next 40 min or so he explained how partnering with the followers is the best idea to create that long term commitment.

It’s of no doubt that people are not committed to companies, jobs or titles. According to the Future Workplace “Multiple Generations @ Work” survey of 1,189 employees and 150 managers, 91% of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years which means they would have 15 – 20 jobs over the course of their working lives! We are committed to people and relationships and that commitment comes out of the value that they create for us. And as per Ty, this is one of the strongest basis of Partnership Leadership

‘Create value for your followers and this is what gives the right to be heard; not your title, authority or position’.

Value precedes influence and it is driven by passion for your followers and the cause and building genuine relationship with your people. As a leader your highest ROI will come from investing in your people and then only they will invest back in you. So true, isn’t it? And as we all know, this investment need not be huge and or may not be even in monetary terms. Small things can go a long way and genuine concern for others is what matters.

Ty gave the beautiful example of this type of leadership by narrating what happened with Market Basket, a chain of supermarkets owned by the Demoulas family based out of Massachusetts. If you go through the history of the company, for a very long time it has been on news for legal battles and mud slings within the family members on ownership and operations, the latest one being a new lawsuit filed last week! But among all these battles there was this one which stands out as a true testimony of a partnership leadership. In 2014, the then CEO Arthur T Demoulas was fired by his cousin Arthur S Demoulas who owned the majority of the shares in the company and this was followed by a massive protest by the employees and customers of the company in favor of Arthur T, boycotting the supermarkets and within 6 weeks the century old company reached a stage of insolvency. The 25000 employees and customers stood strongly for their leader as a result of which Arthur S was eventually forced to give back the title and ownership to Arthur T. Unlike Arthur S, Arthur T is known to keep personal connection with his employees, knowing them by their names, providing employees with any personal helps when in need like attending funerals and urgent financial supports ,helping them realize their full potentials and as one of the Market Basket employees rightly puts it across “He gives more than you put in”! Is there a better testimony than the true words of your employees who are “normally supposed” to hate their employers!!The Market Basket story has become a strong case study on leadership and how stakeholders (not just shareholders) can shape the direction of a company and is currently taught in many universities including MIT Sloan.

Another point which Ty mentioned during his speech and got me thinking was about motivation. He said motivation is important, but is overrated. What is more important for a leader is to remove the inhibitors from the followers’ path for motivation to work. If you are not enabling your followers to remove the obstacles from their path and instead just keep on motivating them, it won’t actually help them move forward. The actual value that you would add to your followers is by doing this, by facilitating their journey towards greatness.

Again adding to this, Ira Chaleff , in his book The Courageous Follower, explains a very different relationship between a leader and follower ,which is not based on leader’s power over the followers, but one in which leader and follower both have equal power but different roles that orbit around support and fulfillment of the organizations’ purpose. As Ty pointed out the role of the leader is to create such a culture of partnership and commitment in the organization where there are no hypocritical expectations from the followers to blindly follow the leader.

Commitment is a two way street and if you want commitment from your followers, be committed to them first. As Ty quoted from John Maxwell,

”You can love people without leading them, but you can’t lead them without loving them!”


The Ardent HR

Note : Ty Bennet’s new book “Partnership is the new leadership” is available on Amazon. You may check it out for more details on the topic

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