The Four Hour Leader

Over the course of the past several years, Tim Ferriss has successfully cultivated a personal brand around the idea of the Four Hour Work Week.  His thesis, that it is entirely possible for people to create whole and complete lives by fundamentally rethinking how they use their time and what they do with their lives, is quite compelling.

Ferriss insists that we have built-in too many redundancies and unnecessary steps in our lives, and that we don’t in fact need to work, lock-step, 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, to live a rich life.  He defines ‘richness’ as something based on experience rather than on pure ($) wealth.

Clearly the message has resonated with millions of people.  The book has been a best seller for years, and his follow-up book, The Four Hour Body, seems destined for similar success.

But what about leadership?  In today’s corporate world, countless consulting firms and management books try to convince us of the need for leadership…How much leadership do we really need?  What will leadership look like for Gen Y and Gen C?

Perhaps the Four Hour Work Week holds a clue.  What if, in a world defined by the cloud workplace and a cloud workforce, with people working from home, or from Starbucks, or from a coworking space, either as an employee or as a freelancer, simply need less leadership?  Boomer assumptions maintain that organizations can’t hang together without excellent leadership, but I’m not quite sure…Maybe 4 hours is enough?

More Action, Fewer Words

While there will always be some need for leaders in organizations of a certain size, which makes the notion of the totally ‘leaderless organization’ (i.e. The Starfish and the Spider) something of an unattainable Holy Grail, I am quite certain that businesses today are over managed and over led.  Ferriss’ core thesis applies here:  Hire the right people, make clear what the goals are, give them maximum flexibility to leverage the cloud as they see fit, then get out of the way.  This really shouldn’t take more than 4 hours a week…

With teams scattered here and there in the clouds- some in town, some out of the country, some full time and some contractors- yesterday’s image of the tall, self-confident, charismatic corporate leader in a well-tailored suit is a bit anachronistic.  What companies need today are people who have cut their teeth as technically competent specialists, first, but who then have the communicative skills and interests to articulate the company strategy to other specialists.

Both in person and through informal communication, 4 hours a week is sufficient for top leadership to remind employees where the ship is headed and why.  The rest of the time should be spent doing actual work on a team.

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