New Leadership Heights: Regulation or Inspiration?

Red Tape

In times of transformation, leadership is asked to explore new territories because solutions are often not found in systems that created the problem.

It can mean letting go of the existing structures and rules to allow new inspiration to come through.

But can we let go and launch into new territories? And will we?

Two Stories of Choice

Absentee Logic

A Dutch organization was in need of help. For over a year and a half one of its departments had been battling with a disproportionately high absenteeism.

Senior management decided to come up with an ultimatum:

Either a three-day group session would ignite a significant change or all ten employees had to find new jobs.

And I was asked to facilitate the three days.

Day one immediately exposed the crux: the work pressure would be too high due to existing expectations. These expectations were caused by the organizational culture of rules and structures.

This was my cue to rattle the cage a bit:

What if everyone threw the current structures, frameworks, systems, job descriptions and logistics overboard?

It might pave the way for a new way of working together that could support the individual and collective needs and values.

The lid came off. My suggestions backfired. They wanted to know how could I suggest such a thing?

Rules were a necessity; people and organizations simply cannot function without. As a matter of fact, even stricter regulations were needed…

This was the same department that perceived to be a victim of the over-regulated, rigid organizational structure. These were the same people who felt like they had to fit a mold, that there was no room for their natural qualities to come to the surface. I just pulled the plug on it, I let the overflowing bath of rules and regulation be emptied. It was met with utter panic and pure resistance!

Absentee Opportunity 

A few weeks later I received a message from a colleague. An international leadership platform was asking for innovative articles from anyone working in the leadership field and my colleague thought that I should submit an article on Leadingship.

3000 words and quite a few hours later I tried to find out where to send it.

I was treated to a ‘submission guidelines document’ of no less than 3700 words i.e. 9 pages. When I worked my way through it and assumed that I had complied with every single rule, I hit ‘send’.

That same day I received a very short reply:

“Please resend it per procedure, Entry #1 Email submission … We may disregard received submission…” End of message!

As far as I could ascertain, after two hours of going through the guidelines again and again, I had forgotten to put my phone number and address in the email. It wasn’t sufficient to have them included at the top of my article. I double-checked my overall compliance and resubmitted my article the next day.

What came back was another impersonal message saying that they were “not interested in my submission… it ‘needed’ support from current literature; otherwise the reader may have some doubts…”

Oh the Irony…

The intention of my article was to question beliefs around traditional leadership. It was inviting the reader to explore the non-personal essence of inspiration rather than building on theoretical assumptions of personal influence.

Reference for it was not to be found in existing literature and rules, but in self-inquiry and out-of-the-box contemplation.

When I first read the editor’s online call for submissions, I was immediately inspired by what they were looking for:

“…new and unique leadership paradigms, as well as fresh leadership development programs, courses and curricula, need to be and have been created to meet such postmodern demands as increased flexibility and inclusion, the embrace and use of diversity, the need for creativity, the need to create and manage change, the achievement of social justice, and the need for leadership authenticity…”

Unfortunately it seemed that following the rules was more important than the unique paradigms, fresh programs, flexibility, inclusion, diversity, creativity and leadership authenticity that he was talking about.

Following the rules killed another possibility for new inspiration.

Absentee Clarity 

These two situations are certainly not stand alones. In my work with organizations I keep coming across a human dependency on rules, regulation, structures, job descriptions and responsibilities.

Allegedly they are in place to create clarity, to keep us safe and secure.

But the times that we live in have been bringing up global feelings of unclarity, unsafety and insecurity. No regulation has been able to prevent it. Still we keep referring to it as if it’s the main objective to the work we do and the life we live.

Especially these times have made us hungry for inspiration and innovation. But for that to happen, we first want check how viable existing rules still are. It requires letting go of what doesn’t serve us anymore, even when it means saying goodbye to the status, authority and power that are linked to it.

Umm, has my attachment to inspiration just created another rule?! :-)


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Arnold Timmerman
Arnold Timmerman is Author and Founder of Truth Unmlimited
He provides “Leadingship” training & coaching throughout all organizational levels
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On Leadership and Change, Chaos and Creation

Chaos to Creation

Many things in the life of a leader are uncontrollable and unpredictable. If handled incorrectly, this can lead to calamity. But if managed well, change, chaos, and creation can work together to create wonderful results.

A Story of Chaos

The British fuel-truck drivers announce their plans to go on strike. One of the ministers can’t prevent the knee jerk response and tells the public to start hording gas, just in case.

The consequence:

  • A fuel shortage
  • Rampage prices for a week
  • Public fights
  • People setting their house on fire with leaking jerry cans…

And the catch:

The anticipated strike, however, never takes place!

Not long after, I am driving to London when I turn on the radio. I hear politicians and economists fight each other over the best ways to control the recession.

I hear listeners phone in to blame the ‘leaders’ for their lack of foresight; they should have seen the chaos coming, they should have protected the civilians from this catastrophe.

Chaos, or even the prospect of it, seems to bring out the worst in people.

This happens both in our private micro-environment and also in our political-economic macro-environment.

For some reason, as human beings, we have learned that chaos should be prevented or avoided, in other words it should be controlled – preferably by the people ‘in charge’.

But how effective is it?

Another Story of Chaos

The Dutch government takes over private banks in trouble because ‘we have to take measures to stop further economic decline’. But soon after the country finds itself faced with a deficit that is too high for the European Union’s liking.

Severe cuts have to be made in order to remain a leading force on this international stage.

The leaders of the Dutch coalition parties go underground for seven weeks to come up with a strategic plan that will slay the Crisis-dragon. But they can’t come to an agreement and the coalition falls.

  • The country has lost its government
  • The stock exchange looses all trust
  • And the economy takes another dip

And still we are convinced that we should do everything to control this crisis.

Nature at Work

In the mean time Life is laughing at the way we try to survive the quicksand by moving our legs and arms. It knows that there is an alternative available, because it sees how Nature copes with it. The winds of change always bring temporary chaos and Nature actually depends on it.

There is:

  • No seasons without climate change
  • No fertile soil without the debris of death to fertilize it
  • No new growth without the uncontrollable quiet time of germination (i.e. creation.)

What if this was also true for business and politics?

Why wouldn’t we just settle with the natural flow of Change, Chaos, and Creation?

ChangeChaos & Creation

This is where innovative leadership can play a huge role. Rather than fighting the flow of Life, we could let ourselves and therefore others be inspired by this uncontrollable force that seems to prepare us for new creation.

Instead of cutting back, freezing our investment budgets, or pushing even harder for the same production strategy, a time of chaos invites us to something else.

It might allow us to review our individual and organizational values, to explore the available authentic qualities and the existing internal needs and wishes.

It could create an opportunity to expose any structure or system that is past its sell-by date.

It’s almost as if we are granted some time to let the ‘dead wood’ drift away to make way for new growth.

Your Catch 22

And here’s immediately the Catch 22: the minute we decide that we are comfortable with the idea of embracing chaos, our practical and result-focused mind wants to know how and take cognitive control once again. Of course, commercial people jump at this golden opportunity and develop ‘The Ten Techniques’ to cope with crisis and chaos.

There might even be some clever new age leadership academies, which will sell you a spiritual concept to guide you through these turbulent times.

They all tell you what to do and how to do it because other ‘experts’ have done so successfully.

If you want, you can accept these new strategies of control as the guiding force. It might work temporarily: the power of belief and intention is strong. Or you can trust the one sustainable truth of change itself: nothing is ever the same – no circumstance, no experience, no employee, no organization.

True Inspiration

Every moment of Change, Chaos and Creation is therefore different. True inspiration – as the essential element to any leadership dynamic – is therefore always new, fresh and in line with the needs of the moment.

It’s uncontrollable and unpredictable.

And according to my ongoing professional experience, it’s terribly practical, focused, and efficient. Leadership that is courageous enough to incorporate Change, Chaos and Creation might become the best money ‘maker’ in times of the worst financial chaos.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Arnold Timmerman is Author and Founder of Truth Unmlimited
He provides “Leadingship” training & coaching throughout all organizational levels
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Leadership 2012: Leadership Standing Trial

Leadership Judgement

Dateline: Den Haag 24th January 2012, L2L Press

The International Court of Justice in The Hague, The Netherlands, was caught off guard when the prosecution presented their next case yesterday. Not another commander of war was standing trial but an idea, a concept: Leadership.

At the first hearing the defendant’s seat remained empty while its lawyers were witness to the charges presented by the prosecution. The prosecution is basing its case on violation of Human Rights, with a special focus on the following articles of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 1:

All men are born free and equal… they should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.’ The prosecution states that our Leadership bases its functionality on top-down command, which bypasses equality. It also challenges the spirit of brotherhood in which Leadership interacts. Its traditional vertical structures seem to infuse conditions to the unconditional respect that is ingrained within a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2:

‘Everyone is entitled to all rights and freedom… without distinction of any kind, such as… status…’ The Court is promised evidence showing how Leadership links rights to status. Cases of corporate leaders claiming disproportional bonuses and of religious leaders’ entitlement to certain sexual rights, will be put forward.

Article 4:

‘No one shall be held in slavery or servitude…’ The prosecution questions our suggested freedom of choice in Leadership’s traditional structures and therefore assumes a certain form of servitude:

a)   Resigning before the end of a contract can cost income and leave a stain on an employee’s resume. These consequences are strong means of persuasion to keep people locked into their job.

b)   When an organisation hires a person for a ‘leadership’ position, the other employees have to bear the consequences of the appointment. They are put in a ‘take-it-or-leave-it-position’ within the newly established hierarchy.

Article 19:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference…’ According to the prosecution, Leadership attributes more weight to the opinion of someone in a ‘higher’ position within the system’s structure. This eradicates the right of opinion or freedom of speech of anyone who is lower ranked.

Article 23.2:

‘… Everyone has the right to equal pay for equal work.’ Leadership is being charged with cultural conditioning of the belief that a higher position should come with higher income. The prosecution suggests that the automatic connection between position, responsibilities and reward is non-sustainable.

Official Proceedings

The defendant’s lawyers (P. Olitics, E. Conomics and C. Ulture) have stated to the press that their client is going to plea ‘not guilty’ to all of the charges.

Their press release states that Leadership is considering suing the prosecution for damages as a result of loss of status, authority and control.

The Leadership Lobby

A spokesman of the new Leadingship Lobby was present at the first hearing. His comments: ‘I’m glad to see that our society is moving towards a healthier future. This court case could be a shift towards more sustainable way of working and living together. Me-telling-you-what-to-do has been regarded an indispensable element to our social structures for centuries.

It has gone hand-in-hand with ranking, responsibility, higher pay grade and discrimination based on professional or cultural background.

It’s true: recently there’s been a growing realization that blaring orders from a ‘higher’ position is passé and that something like servant or charismatic leadership could match our time better.

But no one seems to have noticed the arrogance accompanying this new leadership face.

It is make-up to hide the ugly truth: we still consider it a necessity that some people have to “influence” others that are working “for” them. It proves how we accept manipulation used by some to move others towards their needs. And even in this kind of “innovative leadership,” employees can be exit when they refuse to be influenced.

This threat of ramifications to empower the established leadership dynamic is exactly what is on trial here.

I hope that people wake up to the potential paradigm shift. This is a real chance for non-personal dynamics of inspiration to take Leadership’s place. The ever flexible and natural interactions of leading and following – which we call Leadingship – maximizes the use and potential of all human capital and respects human rights.’

Guilty or Not?

Should the court find Leadership guilty on just one of the many charges, Leadership will be serving a lifelong sentence. This could mean that new alternatives such as Leadingship can expand their territory.

The prosecution has emphasized the urgency of this case due to the worldwide financial, political and social circumstances. The International Court of Justice is expected to pass sentence the end of this month.

What are your thoughts? Is Leadership guilty? Please submit any opinion or response in a letter to the editor.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Arnold Timmerman is Author and Founder of Truth Unmlimited
He provides “Leadingship” training & coaching throughout all organizational levels
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On Faux Leadership: Inflation and Recession of Leadership Capacities

Bank Collapse

Recession means decrease of economic GROWTH. We’ve got ‘less more’ money than before. And this supposedly is the wicked monster that leaves behind a trail of bankrupt individuals, organizations, and even countries.

This is why we cry, mourn and lick our wounds. This is why we complain, protest and hold the political and financial ‘leaders’ responsible.

“Please, forgive me for my simplicity.

Speculative Leadership

Speculative Financial LeadershipWe have been banking on profit speculations and we’ve been investing money that does not exist.

Globally, nationally, and personally we borrowed beyond our capacity to pay back.

This monstrous system is now showing its teeth and immediately we freeze with fear and look for designated leaders with the ‘right’ experience and expertise to get us out of the mess.

And what happens? The ones that we look ‘up’ to tell us that the only way to recover from this recession is to keep borrowing and spending money!

When I questioned the sustainability of this system about ten years ago, I got slated for my ignorance. I was advised to keep my simplistic approach to myself, jump on board with the visionary financial leaders and enjoy the fruits of these invisible and even unsown seeds.

I’m glad I declined the generous offer that sounded too good to be true.

On Faux Leadership

I believe that the scaffolding of make-belief economics, hollow politics, nonsense media, and hierarchical leadership is coming down. It’s past it sell-by date, which means that the actual structure of humanity might be unstable for some time.

And the question is:

“What will we do? Will we try to polyfill the growing number of cracks? Will we find another scaffolding to razzle-dazzle us into a new fiction of hope and glory in these chaotic times? Or are we willing to finally let go of our necessity to appear bigger, better, stronger and more successful than we really are – both globally and individually?”

Yes, individually as well… Have a look at the wild growth of presented company profiles.

Shiny leadership institutes and organizations appear to be no more than the online representation of one person who might have a read a few books about leadership.

Everyone is a leading expert or an expert leader.

Resumes are sometimes longer than a person is tall displaying alleged global work-experience. And to sustain this image we keep presenting less truthful information every day, even though deep down we realize that one day people will pierce through our smokescreen and stop buying into our self-proclaimed brilliance.

Truth and Consequences

Botox Before and AfterIf we’re honest, don’t we feel much more drawn to the weathered and aged face of Truth than to the clone-like, silky-smooth surface of Botox? Truth has a naturally inspirational lure, doesn’t it?

If Truth were a company I would start selling shares right away. Its main product – authenticity – always delivers.

“It’s part of the ever flowing stream of Life and therefore highly sustainable.

It cannot be controlled, manipulated, put in any hierarchical order, made to look better or nicer. It doesn’t break any promises of ongoing success because it supports the current wellbeing of all human capital without banking on its speculative growth.

Keeping Me Employed

When my simple mind contemplates it all, a smile appears on my face. I’m making money because organizations and professionals ask my training, coaching or book to lead the way back to authentic interaction and natural horizontal leadership dynamics.

If our society had never bought into the idea of necessary economic growth, I might have been without work right now.

Or is this thought too simplistic?

Ask Yourself This…

Here are a few (self-reflective) questions for the reader:

-       How are you presenting yourself or your company – is it absolutely accurate or do you still need to inflate the image?

-       If you weren’t recognized as a leader or expert, how would that be for you?

-       Are you truly passionate about the professional and personal life you are living or do you simply need it to maintain a certain status and to project an image of success?

-       Could it be beneficial to let the struggling economic, political, social structure collapse and start from scratch?

I’m looking forward to your insights.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Leadingship: exploring the essence of leadership dynamicsArnold Timmerman is Author and Founder of Truth Unmlimited
He provides “Leadingship” training & coaching throughout all organizational levels
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The Simple Truth of Leadership

Complexity in Leadership

Our current society seems to validate leadership when it’s supported by complex, intellectualized back-up material. And no one seems to question it.

As a matter of fact, every day more research gets financed and leadership models are produced to “improve the leadership dynamics” as we know them. This has led to a wild growth of information on the subject, which by now seems to be covering up the simple truth of leadership:

It’s a natural dynamic of leading and following governed by life itself.

Keeping it Simple

Unfortunately it seems like we have decided globally that leadership should be complex. Our minds are being boggled by the most technical theories, development strategies, and leadership language to supposedly accomplish one thing: Inspiration.

I once was told that whenever there is complexity there is ego: Whenever there is simplicity, there is truth.

Indeed, inspiration is the one fundamental element to any leadership dynamic. There is no true dynamic of leading and following without inspiration. But we have somehow intellectualized inspiration to be something that can be done by someone.

Understanding Inspiration

Now have a look at this description by Wikipedia:

inspiration  [in-spuh-rey-shuhn]:

‘Inspiration is prior to consciousness and outside of skill (“ingenium” in Latin)… Technique and performance are independent of inspiration… Inspiration refers to an unconscious burst of creativity.’

Inspiration can happen THROUGH us but, not consciously BY us.

You can never make people follow you. Everyone can always choose not to. Any theory of personal influence and inspiration is therefore subject to deletion. Still, funded research and expensive leadership development teach us that people will follow our lead if we ‘influence’ and ‘inspire’ people by acting or communicating a certain way.

Understanding Control

Of course, this concept of  “inspiration through control” undoubtedly carries the risk of failure, so we, as a society of achievement, have agreed to build in a repercussion and reward system:

If people follow our lead, then they will get the appropriate reward… if they don’t… Control has therefore become indispensable to this version of leadership.

Control has hollowed-out the natural beauty of inspiration. We have moved to an autocratic form of mechanized achievement in hopes of normalizing results to a predictable scale. We have taken away the natural stimulus that works properly and have replaced it with a saccharin form of motivation.

“Control” replaces “inspiration” with those with no creative way to inspire.

It’s Not Personal; It’s Business

We have overexploited another beautiful wonder of life: non-personal leadership dynamics. We have tried to make inspiration a technical tool for some people to ‘make others follow their lead.’

We’ve set up a vertically controlled instrument called leadership, which has not much in common with the natural truth of the all-inclusive dynamics of leading and following.

Everyone leads, everyone follows, all the time.

This is true regardless of our position:

  • Professional experience
  • IQ
  • EQ
  • SQ
  • Heritage
  • Skin colour
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Etc…

We’re all constantly part of infinite dynamics of leading and following. Not acknowledging yourself as a leader is not acknowledging yourself as a human being.

Not recognizing yourself as a follower is believing the dance that the ego tries to dance with you.

Big Questions

This stirs up a few questions:

  • Why is a majority of people still looking at a minority to “lead the way?”
  • Why are the select few still trying to support their ‘leadership position’ with a smokescreen of technicality, superiority, authority and intellectual expertise?

By now we surely must realize that our hierarchical, complex leadership structures are not sustainable other than by increasing control. And history shows how the increase of control leads to political, economic, or social revolution.

Abandoning the Collective Wisdom

So here’s an out-of-the-box yet very simple idea…

Let’s kick-start the revolution against our collective leadership idea now.

Instead of waiting for the painful process of unavoidable messy turmoil, why not stop right here and turn over the controlled government of hierarchically man-powered influence? Let’s explore what happens when we go back to the bare essence of leadership.

In a time where our so-called securities and structures are crumbling, we could invest in even more control – which seems to have put us here in the first place.

Or we can choose a healthy, sustainable, all-inclusive alternative called Leadingship, which is as natural – and free! – as life itself.

This revolution would lead us back to a horizontal, ego-free, non-personal dynamic of ‘inspiring and being inspired’ in which people can play their roles according to their authentic qualities and passion. No expensive technical back-up material needed. Money, time, and intellect can be spent on causes that support all of the 6.9 billion people.

So what are you doing to investigate the vestiges of collective false wisdom that might not be serving you so well? How are you re-evaluating the “truths” you have believed that might be leading you to try to control rather than inspire your team? What steps can you take to improve your Inspiration-to-control ratio?  I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Arnold Timmerman
is Founder of Truth Unlimited
He provides “Leadingship” Training & Coaching throughout all organizational levels
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