Friday, 19 March 2010

Mandate Morass

Mandate Morass

Recently I've been listening to Seth Godin's Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us (for the second time).   Amazingly I bought the book as well.   Both good in their own right, although the audible version  is abridged so only takes a couple of hours to get through. It is listening to Seth that has motivated me to tackle this post about the concept of 'Mandates' that has been on my list for a while now.

Mandates! Managers need them, Leaders don't.  I have arrived at this perspective after years of comments like 'I don't have the mandate', 'If only the boss would mandate it', 'You don't have the mandate' and so on and so on.  I'm not sure if this particular dilemma is a trait of Big Corporation's, although this is where I have seen it most often.

All of these comments have whirled around my group and I as we have plowed on and made a difference.   In the way we work, how we are structured ourselves and the fund we were having in making a difference.  To us waiting for a mandate is like walking through a Morass, it is really hard work, slowing you down, if not stopping you entirely.

Even if the above sentiments are real.  I challenge you to be brave, ignore them, look at your job description or the activity you are driving and be quite literal.  For example if your title is 'Head of Technology' then head the technology, head it in the right direction, head off the challenges and problems.

This is particularly pertinent when you are trying to change an IT Organisation.  Chances are the senior executive don't fully understand technology, or if they do they are so busy trying to manage the broader scope of running a large Business Unit or organisation that they do not have the time to address it directly, and infact are assuming this is what you are doing.

Therefore you need to lead.  In reality the only form of mandate you should be obtaining is funding approval and guidance.  Even when it comes to having your leaders stand in front of the masses and re-iterate your message, chances are you will have a big role to play in defining the message, in fact even writing it.

I often tell people working with me it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission (obviously there is a caveat to this - as long as you are ethical and within the law). It's great when they quote it back to me sometime later, as challenging to me as this can be, it is an indicator that they are leading and making a difference.

So get stuck in, be brave and have some fun, lead.   If I haven't convinced you and you are going to sit and wait for the mandate from on high, could I at least encourage you to read or listen to Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us



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