In recent years a number of things have converged to make doing “business as usual” not practical. Many companies like Mandt have become virtual in their structure. In our company we all work from our homes when not on the road. Our infrastructure staff answer calls from around the world and do so from the comforts of their homes, transferring calls across time zones, moving information between countries, and building relationships with our customers and yet never meeting face to face. The key is that the relationships are real even though the office is virtual. It is important that we are role models to several ideas about what we teach in our program were we say “Building positive healthy relationships is the ultimate goal of our training system”. In the past year we have worked to flatten several aspects our company. By doing so, employees better serve our partners, each other, and the company’s mission around key human relationship characteristics. This next year we apply the flattening to the leadership of Mandt, leaving the traditional hierarchy and operating from an Executive Leadership Team (ELT).

The Executive Leadership Team (ELT) is responsible for the day-to-day management of The Mandt System, Inc. Each of the five members of the team have primary responsibility for key relationships as well as products and services. Supporting process areas will be a shared responsibility of the group and individual accountability is tied ultimately to shared accountability. In many of our trainings we discuss the values of a transdisciplinary team approach. When we apply this to leadership it means that each of the members of the team interact in an open discussion and dialogue, giving equal weight to each perspective and relating them to each other. It is applying the taught idea of “equal value different roles” with a servant leadership approach. The traditional approach to leadership is when each member is like a silo, holding onto their own knowledge and niche in their own area. Leaders choosing when to share and show and when to hold, much like a poker game. With an ELT the silos are connected, the cards are on the table and turned up allowing knowledge transfer to take place across all aspects of the team. This transparency of knowledge and willingness to share skills allows every aspect of the company to have a greater chance of growth and success.

Ecclesiastes 4 discusses the need for human beings to be connected to one another. It shows the importance of having relationships to keep us safe and aid us during our toils. In Ecclesiastes 4:12 it says, “Though one may be overpowered two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (NIV).” The ELT of The Mandt System is made up of 5 strands. It allows us to be bound to one another. Imagine a rope made up of five strands. With such a rope, no strand is dominate over another. When laying on the table no strand is on “top” and none on the “bottom”. There is equality of level and autonomy of self. All five cords at some point touch each of the other cords giving strength to one another individually and ultimate strength to the collective whole.

Is this move to the ELT going to be easy? Absolutely not! Three major challenges face us immediately. First, many of our partners, as well as the rest of the business world, still operate from a very patriarchy/hierarchy structure of business. Traditional ways of doing business give consistency and tradition to having one “Top Dog”. People will want to talk to the “person in charge” not completely understanding that the person they really want to talk to is the one who can best meet their particular need. Second, with transparency and openness of the transdisciplinary approach there is a lot of information. Clear communication in vital. Clear vision must be present or the amount of information becomes daunting. Key to this type of structure is judging information against a clear vision and set of objectives. Finally, the relationships must be based on what we teach about dignity and respect in The Mandt System at all times. The members of the team must “bind” ourselves to one another individually and collectively. There can be no secrets and hidden agendas. Our success as individuals is tied to the success of the group.

In a recent conversation with a friend, I was telling him about our changes. My friend asked, “Were the CEO and CO demoted then?” His question reflected why many people will struggle in understanding this type of system. We tend to see change as negative. We see power in titles. We tie worth to position. We glorify the person on top of the pile. We learn games like “king of the mountain” and our sports have phrases like “sudden death” overtime. There can only be ONE! I smiled at my friend and explained that is “The Glass Half Empty” way of thinking about true servant leadership. The reality is nothing is further from the truth. I explained that the word “Chief” was dropped and others pulled up into a position of shared “Executive” responsibility. It wasn’t anyone coming “down” it was several being “pulled up”. It was about creating a stronger “we” were many talents are optimized and weakness minimized through shared support. It was about optimizing the idea of Win/Win. It was about building a cord of five, which is strong and cannot be easily broken!

Tim Geels – Mandt Faculty