“We must do things through people, not to people.” This is the fourth foundational principle of the Leader Education and Development (LEAD) program conducted by the Institute for Postindustrial Leadership at the University of Indianapolis. We also refer to this principle as Through versus To.
The Through vs. To principle is strongly connected to the postindustrial paradigm of leadership, defined by J.C. Rost as “an influence relationship among leaders and [collaborators] who intend real changes that reflect their mutual purposes.”
Through is an influence relationship that is omnidirectional and non coercive. To is a coercive relationship in which leadership no longer exists. Some managers and leaders consider empowerment a form of working through people, but this notion of empowerment implies giving power and giving responsibility. Through people implies going beyond that. In Rost’s definition of leadership, collaborators are the leaders and followers who both do leadership. It is a mutual and reciprocal relationship. This relationship is the result of working through people; and it is a collective cognitive process.
Many individuals in positions of authority believe they can motivate members of their organizations directly. The fact is you cannot motivate another person. Motivation is not something you do to people because motivation comes from within. Motivation is voluntary behavior. People motivate themselves and the strongest motivators are intrinsic, such as the factor of autonomy which provides a sense of control over one’s environment. Autonomy is more than empowerment. Autonomy means “self-direction” and “self-determination.” Autonomy means freedom from outside coercion.
To is based on the command paradigm and does not respect the human element. The sense of self-control is associated with power (influence and impact) and is rooted in the evolutionary need to control our environment in order to survive.
“Command” is counter to the concept of freedom. When we do something to a person, it “stops” with that person. To is when people are made to do things. It is like telling someone to “leave your brain at the door.” Command means individuals are expected to follow certain rules and traditions must be upheld. This leaves little room for innovation or change. A person can actually “feel” the difference between through and to. We all know and feel what it is like when someone does something to us or through us.
Davis Rock’s work in neuroscience and leadership discusses how people are hard-wired to react to rewards and threats in their environment, including their everyday social situations. The interpersonal primary rewards and threats are important to the brain and ultimately determine the effectiveness of interpersonal collaboration and influence. Individuals have a need for certainty, the need to understand things, and the need to be able to predict into the future. Working through people demonstrates an awareness – being conscious of and sensitive to the nature and effects of social interactions and the human social experience. The goal is to minimize the easily activated threat response (to) and to maximize positive states of mind when influencing and collaborating with others (through).
Through, based on the commitment paradigm, respects the unbounded potential in people. Motivation comes from within, and while the environment can and should be supportive and challenging, ultimate success in job is the responsibility of the individual. Conformance is the natural result of mutual purpose. When we do something through a person, it goes through that person and even beyond that person. Through implies mutual, mulch-directional, non-coercive influence. Through recognizes that people want to do things because they are inherently creative and seek responsibility.
In essence, Through actually means working with and through the frontal cortex of another person’s brain. The brain is what a leader works "through." Internalizing and integrating this foundational principle activates the brain’s neural approach systems that underlie collaboration. The brain is a social organ and leadership is a social phenomenon; enlightened leaders see and understand this connection.
Working through them not to them, reflects an appreciation and understanding of the five foundational principles as well as a strong sense of self.
The fifth of the five foundational principles, Similar vs Different, will be discussed in the next article.
This is the eighth article in a series by Terry and Matt. They are co-founders and directors of the Institute for Postindustrial Leadership at the University of Indianapolis. For more information about the Institute, go to: www.uindy.ed/postindustrial or email Terry and Matt at postindustrial email@example.com.