Every good seat was already taken, so there I was sitting on the floor in the airport waiting for my plane. It’s not that there were no seats in the waiting area. Rather, there were no seats with the necessary American distance of a chair in-between the next closest person and myself. So I chose the floor. As I sat there—on the floor—leadership came to mind. It seems like a good place to think about leadership. Maybe I’ll write a book someday entitled, “Leading by Flooring Around.” Maybe the floor really is the best place for leaders.
Leaders often speak about getting the broad view or vision. The theory goes that the more you can see the big picture, the more you’ll know how to steward the whole gig. Ok, I can buy that. But I think the desire for the broad view is also due to the fact that many leaders would rather look down from a safe place than up from a vulnerable one. When you sit on the floor, you put yourself in a place of defenselessness—that is unless you want to bite someone’s ankle. Most leaders don’t strive for defenselessness. But maybe the future of leadership is less about protection and security and more about weakness and deference. Maybe the savvy leader is the one who can lead from the floor—from a place of shared power or even no power.
You can learn a lot about people from the “floor view.” For instance, you can notice the condition of a their shoes or how they stand or how big they seem. Ground level leadership puts you in touch with a more human view of people. In fact, they actually look like real people instead of dots on the ground (or on the org chart)—which is the picture you get from on high. It also enables the person without the position of leadership to feel the privilege and responsibility of power. Let’s go a bit deeper with this last thought.