The Changemaker Effect: Rethinking Leadership in the Everyone-Leads Game

It's game time.

Alone in the locker room, a football player makes his final preparations. He slips his pads over his head and fits them perfectly on his shoulders. Next, he throws on his jersey, the large numbers tightly wrapping around the bulky armor that frames him. Finally, he slowly pulls his helmet over his head. He carefully fastens the strap across his chin and gives the hard protective shell a slap with both hands. Now ready, he storms out of the locker room to join his teammates. He sprints through the tunnel toward a deep green playing field washed in the warm glow of a bright spotlight.

It is a moment for which he has prepared his whole life.

As he approaches the others, his pace slows. Something is clearly wrong. The goal posts that typically mark each end of the field are down. In their places are two large nets. The brown "pigskin" football he knows has been substituted with a football of another sort — one that is rounded and spins out a black and white pattern. The players warming up on the field are unfamiliar. They don't sport the same heavy gear he does. Instead, their hair flies freely in the wind and they are wearing shorts and light clothing that enables them to be nimble.

The game has changed.

Frame Change
There are three likely reactions that follow when the game you know has changed. The first is to freeze in place, watching in fear and confusion as this strange new activity plays out before you. It is a helpless feeling that will keep you a fixture on the sidelines and make you quickly irrelevant.

The second is to dig in stubbornly and double-down on what you know. In this instance, that might entail putting your helmet down and running full steam into those unsuspecting players. Of course, that would make you worrisome and even dangerous. You would soon find yourself marginalized and cast aside by the others.

The third is to see differently so you can do differently. This is what I refer to asframe change; mindset shift. The first step to playing in the new game requires a personal recalibration to one's environment or circumstance. This is a daunting prospect, but less so once you actually understand there is a new game requiring a wholly different set of rules.

The old rules will not work in the new game.

The New Game
Our world has undergone a transformation. The strategic landscape, for centuries characterized by efficiency and repetition, is now defined by change and innovation. Society is tearing down its system of silos and hierarchy. Advances in technology have also lowered barriers to individual participation. In this new game, everyone plays; everyone is bigger. The result is that our one-leader-at-a-time past has given way to a new, everyone-a-leader present. These are polar opposite games requiring very different approaches and an entirely new framework for playing.

The Changemaker Effect
I have written before about the Changemaker Effect behind this historic societal shift. When everyone leads in every moment, the speed of change accelerates relative to our one-leader-at-a-time past. Why? Leaders make change. And if you agree that everything you change changes everything, and everyone is doing it — that means everyone is a changemaker.

Today, we carry with us in one small package, all the tools that were once available to just a few. Our networks, printing presses, and collaboration platforms — these are now at our fingertips and can be brought to bear in a moment on any problem or opportunity.

This is game-changing!

The framework we learned for playing in the old game of repetition won't serve us in the new game defined by change. Frameworks are just roadmaps, and we need a new roadmap to help us navigate the new strategic landscape — the how-to's for commanding our world defined by rapid change.

Let's start a conversation on this topic. How has the game changed for you — in your sector, career, or around your world generally? What does it mean to be a leader in a game where more of us are powerful contributors and changemakers? What are the new attributes and skills a leader must have today?

This article was originally published on June 18, 2015
Related TopicsCivic Engagement, Citizen / community participation, Innovation in Teams


Henry De Sio
Henry is a Leadership Group Member at Ashoka, where he advocates a new framework for next generation youth innovators. Previously, Henry served as deputy assistant to President Barack Obama.

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