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Leadership for the Knowledge Work Era

January 8, 2019

In working in today’s knowledge work economy, it surprises me that many leaders still use traditional ways of leading their people. Leaders still put most of the focus on the work to be done instead of focusing on the people to create an environment where great work can be done.

My suspicion it has to do with legacy industries and businesses. They still see work as straightforward and the leader has the most experience to break down and explain the work so many people can execute on it to finish it.


In today’s complex, rapidly changing landscape the team you build better be supported to rapidly learn and have an environment that fosters continual validated learning if they have any hope to survive. The team needs to be more knowledgeable than the leader in this new era. This is the complete reverse from the industrial era where managers were the most knowledgable. Furthermore, leaders need to continually foster and grow their people. Customers and technology are changing at an incredible speed. Not only in skill but more challenging opportunities. Don’t worry about losing them, as they move on they serve as your ambassador and recruiter for their replacement.

Leaders that create a learning and courageous environment will have people with a variety of domain expertise greater than their own. Their job changes to inspiring people to go beyond their expectations and creating the safety and space for that learning to happen.

Having Cerebral Palsy I had to learn to give up control to move forward. Accepting to not having to know more than your team is giving up control.

In everything complex, it is all about balance. Focus on your people, but keep an eye on the objectives to ensure you are headed in the right direction.

Things you can do as a Leader:

Move from focusing on the work to focusing on growing the people to do great work.
Move from giving the solution to asking open questions to unleash possible solutions.
Move from having to know everything before allowing the team to move forward to setting guardrails to allow teams to innovate ahead of you know all the details to learn.

Lead how you would like to be led!

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