Michael Brenner has held a whopping 53 jobs in his life. He kicked off his career as a paperboy, moved on to mowing lawns then got a gig making pizzas. After college, he started out delivering cars for a rental company, tried his hand at sales, and eventually landed in marketing. From there, he worked his way into more prestigious roles, ultimately moving up the chain of command to Vice President of Marketing at SAP and most recently Head of Strategy at NewsCred. michael brennerMichael’s not all that different from most modern day workers. The average millennial changes jobs 4 times before the age of 32, double that of the generation before them. 53 different jobs is admittedly bit extreme, and Michael agrees. After moving around so many times, he started to do some reflection as to why: “At some point, I looked back and was just like, ‘I remember being happy in my job or being happy with my boss, but never loving my job, even though I loved what I was doing. And I was just trying to figure that out. Why did that happen? Why did I love what I was doing but not want to stay?” Eventually he figured it all out. His conclusion? “The problem is the org chart. The org chart exists to show us who’s above us, who’s below us, and who’s beside us … Bureaucracies exist in a command-and-control structure and serve a very efficient model of decision making. They do not fit the world that we live in today.” Modern organizations require extreme adaptability. The world is moving faster than ever. It’s nearly impossible for a few people sitting at the top of the organizational pyramid to glean all the information flowing through the network. Even if they could take it all in, it’s even more impossible craft a perfect plan in a random and unpredictable environment. By the time a plan is created, it’s outdated. Or it was just wrong to begin with. Command-and-control management might have been efficient in the 20th century when the world moved slower, but it’s not going to succeed in the ubiquitously connected 21st century. The only way to win now is to unleash your talent. Stifle it through bureaucracy and politics, and you’ll lose. But blowing up the org chart isn’t realistic for most organizations. Without some semblance of structure, there’s no way for people to work together or to hold teams accountable for making progress. Most companies would agree they want to transform and really start to setup a culture where leaders exist that are really driving success, but how do you actually do that? Michael’s advice is that you need to “create a safe environment for the smart people that your company is trying to attract and retain and let them do what they want to do. Let them do what they love. Let them solve the problems that they’re seeing every day. They’re the experts. Help encourage and activate them.” In short, you need to cultivate Champion Leaders.

What is a Champion Leader?

A champion leader empowers others in their organization to do their very best work to solve customer’s problems. They encourage ideas in employees instead of delegating and directing tasks. They see their role as fulfilling on the mission of the company by attracting and retaining highly developed and engaged employees. And what happens when you cultivate Champion Leaders? Your employees will be happier because they’re empowered to solve problems. And the organization will achieve better results because employees are doing their best work, retaining longer and are just outright happier to solve customer’s problems. It’s a win-win for everyone.
“Leadership is not telling your team what to do. It’s listening to your team on what they think they should do.“
In this episode of Org Uncharted Michael shares what it takes to create Champion Leaders inside your organization that can help your people unleash their potential and build a better organization. Listen here and don’t forget to subscribe to Org Uncharted on your favorite podcast player.