Ever wonder why your keyboard is configured the way it is? One version of the typewriter origin story is that the letters on the keyboard were scrambled to slow down typists. The earliest typewriters were prone to jamming when used at high speeds. The solution – scramble the letters to slow down the typists who were breaking the machines by typing so fast. The inventor of the QWERTY keyboard typewriter, Christopher Latham Sholes forged a deal with the Remmington company, famous for making and marketing guns. Remmington was able to mass-produce and market the QWERTY keyboard typewriters, effectively forcing all other typewriter makers to adopt the QWERTY format within five years time. QWERTY locked in and became universal.
Every organization has a culture with behaviors and practices driven by formal and informal values and beliefs, which mindset and framework for leading and managing others. In our organizations there is a QWERTY leadership that locks in and dominates how individuals in a particular organization think about and engage in leadership and people management.
In most cases the QWERTY leadership that has taken hold in our organizations is based on a misunderstanding of what real leadership and people management entail and on a lack of early leadership development to ensure that positive leadership best practices take hold and lock in instead of managerial bad habits.
There are some characteristics that QWERTY leaders have in common. It is typified by a business-as-usual and ordinary approach to management. In 2004 in Harvard Business Review, Abraham Zaleznik wrote, “A managerial culture emphasizes rationality and control.” First, QWERTY leaders believe that authority comes from title and position. They believe their job is to keep the machine well-oiled and operating smoothly. They believe they must ensure their employees comply with their directives. QWERTY leadership maintains the status quo. This QWERTY leadership approach has become nearly universal and is why we have 70% of our people disengaged and that 70% of our change efforts still fail.
Our 21st century organizations are still dominated by an approach to leadership and management that locked in and became universal in the 20th century. It’s beyond time that we re-imagine how we lead and how we encourage others to engage and contribute.
The first step toward a new leadership paradigm is to examine our current paradigm. What about the QWERTY leadership that has locked in and dominates your organization? Do your leadership story, behaviors and practices still deliver what your organization needs? Is it time to disrupt the existing leadership paradigm driving your organization?
If you’re a people manager, at its essence your role is to create the conditions in which people can engage and contribute. How have you, perhaps unconsciously, adopted some of the bad habits of your organization’s QWERTY leadership? If your team is not as engaged as you’d like or not contributing what you’d like in the way you’d like, you may have succumbed to more QWERTY bad habits than you’d like to admit.
One QWERTY leadership bad habit is to wait for your organization to offer training or leadership development opportunities. Drop that habit. Own your development. Read. Hire a coach. Form a group to share your development journeys. Practice using new tools. Tell your Learning and Development folks what you want. If they can’t give you the development experience and support you want and your organization needs, QWERTY leadership may be irretrievably locked in. At that point, whether you stay or not is always up to you.
Marshal Goldsmith, author of the New York Times bestseller, Triggers says, “Anyone facing stagnant processes, corporate infighting, and the usual roadblocks at work will deeply appreciate the great lessons in Ultra Leadership! Adopt a breakthrough leadership strategy that will fundamentally change your work place, and your personal leadership style, for the better!”