Monday, March 8, 2010

The three generations of leadership - G1 Leadership, G2 Leadership, G3 Leadership

We are all used to hearing about generations of mobile phone technology and G3 is now dominant. Similarly we are used to hearing about the various versions of computer programs - terms like V1, V2, V3 are commonplace.

But what about leadership?

When you read the leadership literature it seems as though there is an underlying assumption that the basics of leadership have remained the same for countless years. I am as guilty as anyone else of allowing this view to continue.

But not any more.

One of my major recent learnings has been that there are at least 3 generations of leadership - we can call these "G1 Leadership" (or "Leadership v1.0"), "G2 Leadership" (or "Leadership v2.0") and "G3 Leadership" (or "Leadership v3.0").

G1 Leadership is characterised by a command and control mentality. It has its origins in the world prior to the Second World War. Leadership in this generation is predicated on the follower being obedient and at all time showing respect for their leaders. Followers are not expected to question the decisions of and/or instructions from their leaders and any questions made by the leader are primarily for the purpose of enabling the leader to make a decision. Followers obtain security and certainty by following the rules in a reasonably predictable world. Hierarchy is seen as natural and essential for the smooth operation of society.

G2 Leadership is a development from this. The key difference is that "conformance" replaces "obedience" although the follower is still expected to show respect for the leader at all times. G2 Leadership arose in the 1940's and 50's out of research by management theorists and humanistic psychologists who showed that rewarding people for compliance to instructions was more productive than blind obedience. Most current leadership development programs are based on the belief that followers will act in consistence with what the leader models and that providing positive reinforcement for appropriate behaviour ("operant conditioning") is the most powerful means of motivating people to achieve results. Access to or isolation from information is a key power base in this approach. Again in this model, some form of hierarchy is accepted as a core tenet of society and upwards questioning is often discouraged while questioning from the leader is generally for the purpose of helping the follower solve his or her problems.

Today's Generation Y tends to have considerable difficulty with this approach. They know that with access to the internet and social networking there is very little information that can remain hidden for prolonged periods. In addition they prefer to work out their own solutions to problems rather than relying on others to provide them with answers. There tends to be a significant disconnect between Generation Y followers and G2 Leaders with G2 Leaders often bemoaning the work and social attitudes of Generation Y.

Which brings us to G3 Leadership.

G3 Leadership is all about engaging people with both what they do and those with whom they do it. A G3 Leader operates in an atmosphere of mutual respect between leader and follower and in which the leader has the maturity to distinguish between the person (who is always acceptable) and their actions (which might not be acceptable.) Where G1 Leaders and G2 Leaders have their brain's locus of control primarily in the red zone (basic/reptilian - limbic areas), G3 Leaders have their brain's locus of control in the cortical areas of the brain - the blue zone.

The really good news is that we can all learn to become G3 Leaders.

More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at

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