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Connect and Care: The New C2 We Need From Today’s Leaders

We’re back on episode #3 with Rachel Druckenmiller, the founder of UNMUTED! Rachel, thank you so much for being here with me. Today, Rachel and I discuss the paradigm shift that needs to happen in business leadership. We need to go from Command and Control to Connect and Care!

Rachel:  This has been fun! I love talking about things, but I’m not used to talking about them in quite the same way. So these have been really fun conversations.

Ruthie: Yes, absolutely. And I think if you’re a leader, want to be a better leader, or are an aspiring leader, today’s episode is definitely the episode for you. This is definitely the episode for leaders who are paying attention to what’s been going on right now, especially if you’re stuck somewhere between the old methods and frameworks of leadership, and whatever’s next. 

Why Is Command and Control Not What We Need?

Ruthie: So today we are going to talk about going from “command and control” to “connect and care”. So, Rachel, my first question is why is command and control not what we need? I’m sure we haven’t needed it in a while, but why? Why does it need to be left in the past?

Rachel: It came out of a time of the industrial era, when people were working in factories. It was this approach of, “I am the boss and I make the rules”. It was very much focused on how we can optimize safety and efficiency, not necessarily caring about the person.

The person felt like a cog in a machine. So if people are really simple and they’re just cogs in a machine, then I can just tell them what to do and they’ll follow the rules. I can command and I can control. 

But people are about as predictable as a hurricane. People are complex, so when we become very authoritarian and  tell them what to do, people rebel.

It stunts creativity, it reduces the likelihood that people are going to speak up, ask questions, be curious, and push back because they’re afraid of the repercussions. 

So it teaches people to be very “in the box” in terms of how they show up and think. And it really mutes the creative capacity that people have.

We’re in the purpose economy, we’re in the knowledge economy. We’re not widgets that can be controlled. And if we want to really optimize what can come out of people, we’ve got to shift the way that we’re leading them.

Command and Control is Called C2 in the US Army

Ruthie: it’s interesting how many flashbacks I’m getting while I’m talking to you. In the Army we call command and control “C2”. It’s so embedded in the way that the military runs things that we have an acronym for it.

That’s exactly how the military runs, like cogs in the machine.

I know people missed me when I left, but I was far from irreplaceable as a middle management-type of person. Now don’t get me wrong, I wanted to be the first woman Sergeant Major of the Army one day, and just change everything. That was my plan. 

I know some people are envious of military efficiency but much like how command and control was developed in an industrial setting, command and control for the military was meant for those types of settings. 

Even in the military, I think we lead in 2 different ways. If we’re deployed, we have to lead in a particular way. We’re out there. There’s dangers. You’re not always going to know the why’s behind the rules.

But when we come back, we struggle to switch to connect and care, because our lives are not immediately on the line. So informing us of the why’s is something you can take the time to do vs. when we’re in more of a dangerous situation.

from command and control to connect and care

How Can a Leader Lead From a Position of Strength While Embodying Connect and Care?

Ruthie: So we talked about why we need to leave that behind. So there that is, we’re going to leave it behind. I wanted to talk to you about the phrase “connect and care”. I love the sound of this, but I know that there are people who are like, “Wait, I’m a leader! I’m supposed to be in charge. I’m supposed to exude this powerful presence.” 

So how can a leader lead from a position of strength while being the embodiment of this connect and care? It could be that strength isn’t necessarily what we think it is. I would love to hear your take on that.

You Don’t Need All of the Answers

Rachel: When it comes to leadership, people have a perception that I have to have all the answers. That’s what being a leader is; having all the answers and telling people what to do. And boy, does that limit leadership! 

Leadership is really an opportunity to influence people. And when we’re focused on connecting with people and demonstrating that we genuinely care about them, they will show up at such a high level for us.

When people feel that you genuinely care about them and you want to connect with them as a human being, they suddenly start to trust you more. 

When we look at some of the research that Gallup has done, they found that what there’s 4 things that followers need from their leaders, particularly in times of crisis and uncertainty; trust, compassion, stability, and hope.

Nowhere in there does it say “all the answers”. Nowhere in there does it say “intimidation factor”. 

Who Do You Think of When You Think of a Great Leader?

What I invite people to do is think about a leader. Think about someone in your life who has had a positive influence on who you’ve become. Reflect on what words you’d use to describe that person. Are there any words that immediately come up for you?

Ruthie: It’s funny because I said that maybe strength isn’t what we think it is, but I identified one of my first leaders as strong. She wasn’t intimidating. I guess she was strong in that I felt not only was she physically capable of carrying me off the battlefield, but she was emotionally and mentally capable of being what I needed her to be. 

She was reliable and I trusted her, which was naturally incredibly important while we were deployed. But even when we got back, I just knew she was in my corner. I felt like I could do anything because I knew I had her support.

Rachel: When we feel like someone has our back, that really emboldens us. I could fall flat on my face and this person will be there to support me, to ask me what I learned from it. So maybe ask me, “Hey, is there anything you might’ve done differently?” 

Self-Awareness is Key as a Leader

I think some things we really need from leaders more than ever are curiosity instead of judgment, as well as self-awareness. A lot of people in general would say, “I’m highly self-aware. I know myself well. I know the things that I do that get in the way”. Probably not. 

I’ve personally done a lot of work in this space because I do want to know. It’s been terribly uncomfortable and sometimes I’d hate the things that I discovered about myself.

Ruthie: I’ll tell you what I know. I know I’m going to be discovering stuff about myself for the rest of my life. I’m going to be 80 and be like, “Oh, look at that. There’s another thing I’ve discovered about myself”.

Rachel: That’s exactly it! Curiosity keeps us humble. There’s a perception that being humble means that you’re a doormat. No, it just means that you’re not letting your ego lead you in every conversation you’re having.

Learn about why we shouldn’t conform to traditional leadership stereotypes from Dr. Aparajita (AJ) Jeedigunta, DEI&B consultant, and Season 5 guest.

Ask and Act on Feedback

It means that you’re creating space for another person to be heard, that you’re willing to ask questions instead of making an immediate judgment or assumption about them. It’s that you’re willing to look at a dysfunctional situation and ask yourself, “What might my role be in this?”

As one of my mentors, Jon Berghoff, said, “If I’m not part of the problem, how can I be the solution?” 

I think a lot of us really need to take some time to reflect and ask the people that really know us well, “Hey, what do you notice that I do particularly well? Tell me about a time I’ve been at my best.” And for people that you really know, love and trust, “Is there anything I could be doing differently? Is there anything about how I’m showing up in this relationship?” 

If you’re a leader at a company, ask another leader/employee you trust/mentor, “Hey, is there anything about the way I’m showing up that I could be doing differently to help me to be even more effective?” And then act on it. 

There was a study done of over 50,000 managers by a group called Zenger Folkman, which found that the #1 element that contributed most to likability and trust-building was being a leader who asks for and acts on feedback.

Go Ask For Feedback!

Ruthie: I think that that’s probably a fantastic way to close this episode. Everybody who’s listening should ask somebody they trust to offer constructive feedback on something, whether it’s personal or business-related.

If you can get in the habit of asking for that feedback, that’s data that you can use. Because if you’re not operating off of actual feedback, you’re basing all of your decisions off of just what’s in there by itself. You run the risk of being in an echo chamber.

Rachel: Yeah, you’re really missing something.

Ruthie: So that should be something that you make into a goal. It could be a quick Facebook message, LinkedIn message, email, etc. Just, “Hey, I’ve been trying to do XYZ. I’d love your feedback. How do you think I’m performing? How do you think I’m doing?” 

You don’t have to wait for your quarterly/annual review to get these answers. There’s just so much value here. Thank you so much again, Rachel.

Rachel: Of course! Can’t wait for part 4.

Ruthie: Make sure you join us for part 4! This is how we’re closing out and it’s going to be fantastic. We’re addressing all levels of the organization in our next episode, so be sure to join us.

from command and control to connect and care