In the command and control industrial past, management power (that is the ability to change things and get stuff done) came simply from position – if you were the boss, people just did what you said.

I know thinkingOver time, particularly as we moved into the information age, command and control thinking necessarily evolved into more inclusive, team focused leadership.

Here, power was enabled by knowledge, and that knowledge was team focused.  In reality however, it was still pretty hierarchical, with the top team feeling they had ‘special’ (or privileged) knowledge passed to them from their reports, together with their advisors such as consultants, lawyers etc.

It was “We know what to do because we have special knowledge. Let’s all go off and do it”.

In a connected, complex and very disruptive world, I think the leadership focus needs to shift again.

Now the power to change and innovate comes from ideas and the resultant innovation.  

And almost by definition, innovation comes from minority ideas – after all, if the ideas aren’t minority ones, then everyone is doing it and it simply isn’t innovation!  The job of the leaders is to find those ideas.

The new leadership mindset needs to be “Who knows?”   It is the opposite of HiPPO thinking.

This means the leader needs to actively facilitate idea building with as wide a range of diverse viewpoints and insights as possible.  Only this way can they benefit from genuinely innovative ideas that will enable their organisation or projects to survive and thrive.

As well as a shift in leadership mindset, there is a requirement for some specific changes in our leadership behaviour for this to be effective.

In particular, it requires:

  • A real focus on facilitation – drawing out and building ideas from those in your teams and wider network.
  • More curiosity and a focus breadth of information not depth.
  • Accepting we all have unconscious biases, and taking steps to mitigate them.
  • Actively seeking true diversity of thought and experience. Across industries, cultures, generation and disciplines.
  • Valuing and actively building wider networks.  In the real world and online.
  • More humility and much less ego.
  • Stopping HiPPO thinking – HiPPO stands for highest paid person’s opinion

Shifting to “who knows?” thinking is one of the future leadership behaviours explored in the Masterclass “High performance leadership in a disrupted and changing world”.

If you’d like to inspire and enable your leaders to better engage their teams by embracing the future of work, then call Simon on 020 3488 0464 or email

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