Reflecting on the Manifesto for Human(e) Leadership with 1-2-4-All

The Manifesto for Human(e) Leadership was never conceived as a textbook or reference work. However, despite and because of its brevity, it is surprisingly well received as book. The idea as was born in a workshop and it then unfolded one thesis after another in social media and article after article on this blog. My goal with the Manifesto is to give impulses, to disrupt thought patterns, to point out new perspectives and thus to stimulate reflection on one’s own leadership behavior. The theses of the Manifesto consciously open up areas of tension and thus literally invite for discussion and reflection. That is why I had already published the first format of a workshop on the Manifesto here. However, it was designed for smaller groups and intensive discussion. For larger groups I have now successfully used 1-2-4-All from Liberating Structures several times. I would be happy to make this workshop format available as well – as an early Christmas present, so to speak.

What does Netflix have in common with a nuclear submarine? 

To stimulate discussion and prepare for the theses of the Manifesto, I usually start the workshop with a short impulse and the question of what Netflix has in common with a nuclear submarine. Using the example of Reed Hasting, CEO of Netflix, who is proud to make as few decisions as possible, I then explain the principle of context not control as described in the Netflix Culture Statement:

We want employees to be great independent decision makers, and to only consult their manager when they are unsure of the right decision. The leader’s job at every level is to set clear context so that others have the right information to make generally great decisions.

Netflix Culture Statement

This is exactly the principle David Marquet applied on the USS Santa Fe after he realized that a boss who knows nothing and a crew trained in obedience on a nuclear submarine is a deadly combination. This way he managed that gradually everyone on board thought and acted like the captain (more about this in this article).

The most important leadership task is therefore not to decide by yourself, but to create a framework in which employees can make their own decisions. That’s why Reed Hastings makes as few decisions as possible at Netflix and that’s why David Marquet no longer gave orders on the USS Santa Fe. And that’s why the Manifesto for Human(e) Leadership says, “Growing Leaders over Leading Followers.” (David Marquet also calls this the “leader-leader” paradigm instead of the usual “leader-follower” paradigm.)

Joint Reflection With 1-2-4-All

After this introduction and the precision landing at the thesis “Growing Leaders over Leading Followers” the interactive part of the workshop begins. For this 1-2-4-All from Liberating Structures is used:

At its core, 1-2-4-All deals with a common question: first one minute alone, then in pairs for two minutes and finally again in groups of four for four minutes. At the end, each group of four briefly presents its most remarkable idea or insight to everyone (can be repeated as needed and with many ideas). The exact sequence of 1-2-4-All is described in detail at Liberating Structures.

The question to be dealt with is based on the scaling question, which already formed the core of the previous workshop for smaller groups: Where on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 would be more like Frederick Winslow Taylor and 10 more like David Marquet, do you see yourself in your everyday leadership routine today and what could you do differently to move one(!) step forward.

This exercise takes between 12 and 30 minutes for one thesis of the manifesto, depending on the number of ideas. For the first run, it takes longer, because many ideas already come that would fit also in the other theses. As a rule, I schedule such workshops with 90 to 120 minutes and work on two or three of the theses of the Manifesto for Human(e) Leadership with the group. Each thesis I start with a short introduction that does not always have to be as detailed as the story with Netflix and the USS Santa Fe at the beginning. There are already some suitable stories in my book, but there are certainly many more that would fit.

And in order to write many more of these stories in the sense of the Manifesto for Human(e) Leadership, I happily share my slide deck here. You are free to use these slides in your workshops under the CC-BY 4.0 license. Steal with pride!

Download Slide Deck (PowerPoint): German / English

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