The Power of Giving Away Power | Matthew Barzun

Summary of: The Power of Giving Away Power: How the Best Leaders Learn to Let Go
By: Matthew Barzun


Embark on a captivating journey as we explore the transformative ideas presented in Matthew Barzun’s ‘The Power of Giving Away Power: How the Best Leaders Learn to Let Go’. By contrasting the pyramid structure of power with the constellation mindset, this book uncovers the key to a more inclusive, interconnected, and ultimately more successful leadership style. Drawing from historical examples, such as the US founding fathers and the creation of the Great Seal, to modern organizational structures, get ready to discover the vast potential of the constellation mindset and its significance in today’s increasingly complex world.

The Great Seal of the United States

The Great Seal of the United States was designed to represent the US as a constellation of independent actors who brought in different ideas and created unity. The US once embraced this mentality but has now shifted to a pyramid structure of power. The Great Seal has two sides: one depicting a constellation and representing unity, and the other depicting a pyramid, representing stability and consolidation of power. The pyramid’s inclusion on the one-dollar bill marks a significant change in the American mindset.

From Pyramid to Constellation

The book argues that the hierarchical structure, which characterizes the pyramid mindset, has become the dominant model in contemporary society. Companies, organizations, and even individuals tend to rely on well-defined hierarchical structures to avoid uncertainty. In contrast, a constellation mindset is designed to distribute power and work independently while working towards a common goal that everyone shares. The key message is that we need to replace the pyramid with the constellation mindset that fosters community and creativity. The book also highlights how Wikipedia became the biggest knowledge platform known to man through a constellation mindset that allowed anyone to share their knowledge.

Mary Parker Follett: The Pioneer of Collaborative Leadership

Mary Parker Follett was a pioneering woman who paved a new way of thinking about leadership and management. Her ideas about collaborative leadership and integrative organizing still inspire people today. She believed in the power of small groups and making people feel like they were generating power together. She also emphasized the importance of integration as the only desirable outcome of any meeting. Follett’s advice is that we shouldn’t go into a meeting ready to impose our ideas on people, but rather expect to need others, be needed, and be changed. Although her revolutionary ideas were forgotten after her death, they are now being rediscovered as people recognize the value of collaboration and inclusivity in organizations.

Interdependence: The Key To Special Relationships

The book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” emphasizes interdependence as a concept for building special relationships. Interdependence is all about mutual connection and co-creation, letting go of win-lose mindset, and working independently together. Google analyzed data from 180 businesses to find out what makes an effective team and found out that the most distinguishing factor was interdependence. The book highlights that we need to build relationships that foster interdependence to achieve big things. To create a bloom loop, we need to balance routine transactions and special relationships that allow for fruitful friction. The author, a diplomat, learned the importance of building special connections by attentively listening to other people’s ideas and stories. Note that the term ‘special relationship’ coined by Churchill signifies the importance of having a reinforced bond of mutual assistance and collaboration in relationships.

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