Consider the Top-Down leadership model. The CEOs who embrace and practice within this power model are highly dynamic figures, seemingly bigger than life. When they walk into the room, they remove the oxygen–all the attention is focused on them. And they love it. They live for it. They approach leadership from the perspective that it’s their own sheer magnetism and their raw capacity to be brilliant and demanding that makes the company successful. Hollywood loves these power-model-loving CEOs—think of the character Michael Douglas played in the movie Wall Street—because they’re very charismatic, confident, and captivating, even if they do believe, consciously or subconsciously, that “the collective ego be damned!”
While a lot of successful companies are managed by leaders like that, they run the risk of leaving their frontline employees behind and trampling over those people, not necessarily intentionally, but in a way, that fails to build a work environment in which people respect one another. That’s the real difference between the Fusion Leadership model and the power model.
I know plenty of these dictator-type CEOs, but, fortunately, I also know a lot of CEOs and other leaders who place the needs of frontline employees at the top of their priority list, and not simply for altruistic reasons. They do it because that’s what gets results for the entire organization, and they understand that when the organization wins, they win. In essence, they know how to walk the tightrope across the selfish-ego-versus-collective-ego chasm.
The telecom industry is the last place I would recommend to anybody to go start a business. The barriers to entry are enormous; it requires billions of dollars in capital. I was arguably half crazy to even start the company—yet we had all that success. I ended up concluding that the key to our prosperity was what I mentioned early in an earlier blog post: the amazing power of several thousand people who shared a common passion and commitment to build the company. I became fascinated by the ways that my team and I, like many other leaders, helped ignite and harness that power. How do you create this passion and commitment? Why do some companies succeed and others fail?
The more I thought about it, more intrigued I became about the reasons for the success of Integra Telecom and the decisions I made, both the good ones and the bad ones, as its leader. Eventually, I decided to take my journey of exploration—my quest to see how we create a shared passion in an organization—on the road and talk to other CEOs who had done something special by unleashing the energy of a passionate workforce. These are people who founded or grew businesses with more than a billion dollars in market value; served more than a million people in the business; or somehow, in a measurable way, truly transformed their industry or profession.
I came to understand that the magic that you can create as a leader transcends different industries and both for-profit and nonprofit arenas. It transcends the public sector as well as the government sector. Chief among our shared beliefs about leadership is this guiding tenet: True leadership shows people how to connect and commit to a common cause and helps them understand how they’re part of something bigger than themselves.
This observation demands the question- what are the leadership behaviors that attract people to a shared cause and how do those behaviors differ from those that drive people away from an organization? Exploring this socially vital question became my passion that inspired me to write the book Fusion Leadership (now an Amazon best seller).
By connecting people to a shared cause or purpose, the Fusion Leader can put meals on the table and begin to satisfy that hunger we all experience, to find meaning in our work. The Fusion Leadership movement has the power to transform the workplace, improve people’s lives, and change the world.