Give It Up. Distributed Power

Transitioning People Through Constant Change

In this series of posts I am exploring the Give It Up model in which we move away from the command and control of manager to the delegation and trust of true leaders. 


Distributed power

Leadership is not the right of a few but the responsibility of all.

Organizations that distribute power have new leadership practices that do not rely on the effectiveness of a few but the effectiveness of the formal and informal networks across the organization. Leadership can be spread across individuals and teams. Those not in a ‘formal’ leadership role can still be leaders. 

Change can be driven from anywhere in the organization. This does not result in chaos as we have guiding principles or guardrails that ensure there is alignment, control, and risk mitigation. Everyone ensures that no one else makes a decision that hits the organization below the water line. These are the decisions that, if wrong, could be fatal.

The decisions made above the waterline may cause some damage but they can be dealt with, and they are not likely to sink the ship. There is room for risk-taking. The waterline can form one of the guardrails.

A great example of distributed power is from Bank Tabungan Pensiunan Nasional (BTPN). The medium-sized commercial bank was ranked in the top 50 ofFortune magazine’s The Fortune 2016 Change the World list.[i ]It also happens to be the only Asian Bank and Indonesian company in the top 50.

When BTPN set about defining its mission, vision, and values back in 2009, it did so with input from the entire workforce. BTPN leaders provide an environment in which others can lead. It cascades its ‘customer first’ values through the organization. It is embedded into daily business operations, its branches, and customer facing staff. This is achieved by actively engaging employees in problem solving, innovation, and experimentation, and allowing them to make decisions that ensure operations run efficiently and customers have a great experience.

Google has become the success it is due in part to the leadership style that communicates a vision and then gives employees the freedom to implement as they see best. It allows for boundless innovation.

Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google made employees owners of their work by providing them with a broad definition of the organizational goal and then leaving them to it. He defined the goal as:

‘Organising the worlds information and making it universally accessible and useful.’

Every employee could relate to this goal. It was unlike a goal related to organizational performance like ‘increase profitability by 50%’.


Game score

Winning teams don’t do great things because they were told to. They have the power to make great things happen. They are free to experiment, create and innovate.

In subsequent posts in this series I will be exploring the additional elements of the Give It Up model.