The X‑Conference on “Corporate Digital Responsibility and Digital Ethics” took place on October 30, 2020. My keynote, which is now also available as video, revolved — as expected — around the Manifesto for human(e) leadership and specifically around the question what (corporate) digital responsibility has to do with modern leadership. My core thesis: Concepts like digital ethics, compliance or self-organization in agile organizations require all discipline beyond obedience. They cannot simply be imposed, but are based on the personal responsibility of the employees. In this talk, I will approach the question of how this personal responsibility can be activated in a sustainable way with these three inspirational stories about role models, responsibility and trust.
Be the change that you wish to see in the world.Mahatma Gandhi
Gandhi and the Sugar
Leadership always begins with one’s own example and hinges on authenticity. An inspiring story is told about Mahatma Gandhi. A woman came from far away with her son to see Gandhi. She was worried because her son ate too much sugar and, although it made him ill, he couldn’t stop. So she asked Gandhi to tell her son to stop eating sugar. Gandhi did not respond to this request until two weeks later, because he himself had to give up sugar in order to be able to give this advice authentically.
Netflix and the Nuclear Submarine
What does Netflix have in common with a nuclear submarine? Although at first glance they couldn’t be more different, their exceptional leadership culture is very similar. Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, prides himself on making as few decisions as possible and preferably none at all for an entire quarter. And Captain David Marquet decided to stop giving orders on the nuclear submarine USS Santa Fe. Both rely on context instead of control and are very successful with it.
Google and the Super Chickens
William Muir from Purdue University investigated the productivity of chickens. For one group, he selected only the “high performers” and only the best of these Super Chickens were allowed to breed. On the other hand, there was a group of average chickens that were not further selected or influenced. After six generations the chickens in this average group were well fed, fully feathered and their productivity had increased significantly. Contrary to naive expectations, this was slightly different in the Super Chicken group: all but three were dead — picked to death by the others.
Google also found out that superstars don’t automatically become a team. As part of Project Aristotle, Google investigated what turns a group of people into an effective team. By far the most important element was psychological safety. In truly effective teams, there is a high level of safety, so members dare to express their opinions openly and take risks. This is the key ingredient that makes the whole more than the sum of its parts.
All this and a bit more can be found in the following (German language) video of my keynote as an inspiration to listen, think and imitate.