Rethinking Leadership in the Everyone-Leads Era

“It’s ok to fall out of a tree.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t climb that tree.”

Henry De Sio broke the ice during today’s lunchtime keynote here at the 2015 NextGen Conference by bringing his two sons up on stage to share their leadership lessons. The boys were eager to share all of the info they’ve learned so far during their lifetimes.

The kicker, of course, is that his sons are still in elementary school.

Despite their young age, however, the knowledge they imparted about the new, “everyone leads” culture that is emerging across the country was invaluable.

De Sio served as deputy assistant to President Barack Obama and was the 2008 Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Obama for America.

He’s currently working at Ashoka on the issues and challenges that come with transitioning to a new, changemaker-oriented mindset.

He said one of the first challenges he and his team faced at Obama for America was that problems were outpacing solutions. Because of this, they collectively made the decision to work in an environment that allowed everyone to be a leader. The change in mindset allowed for numerous successes.

It’s important to remember that in an “everyone leads” office, there is no room for smallness, De Sio explained. This means that everyone involved has to be prepared to lead all the time.

Breaking down silos is also key. Giving folks the ability to tear down walls — whether physical or metaphorical — is critical for success.

The important thing to remember, he emphasized during his talk, is that everyone can be a change-maker and the speed of change is much faster paced now than it ever has been.

Hierarchies are flattening and silos are collapsing, which means future leaders need to be able to navigate a new landscape where individuals are empowered to make the changes they want to see. Empathy, De Sio noted, is therefore one of the most critical emotions of any leader in this new environment. Being able to walk in someone else’s shoes can not only help you see what someone else is seeing, but it can change your mindset and help you solve problems in new – and hopefully better – ways.

We are moving from a world of repetition to a world of change, which De Sio says is as dramatic as going from a flat world to a world that’s round. And while it might seem overwhelming there are things you can do to be prepared. Don’t stay frozen on the sidelines or double down on what you know and charge forward recklessly. Keep your mind open and learn to see and react differently. Understand that our notions about teamwork and leadership are changing, which means learning and really listening are incredibly important.

When you understand this new strategic landscape, you can become a change maker and not just make your office function better, but you will have the potential to make the world a better place.

From July 20-21 we will be blogging from GovLoop and YGL’s Next Generation of Government Training Summit. Following along @NextGenGov and read more blog posts here.

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