The New Power Model Is Here – Are You Ready?

It is time once again for another installment of my learning from the most recent book from The Next Big Idea Club, New Power, by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms.

While I’ve noticed changes in how work gets done in organizations and the impact new generations have in the workforce, this book does a good job of explaining why a “new power” model is more prevalent than ever. Millenials often get the blame for the shifting dynamics in how leaders need to behave to promote employee engagement. However, the reality is that this generation is asking for things we all want – flexibility, being asked for our perspectives, being treated respectfully, and doing meaningful work, just to name a few.

According to this book, a key driver in the shift to this new power model is about the hyperconnectedness we’ve come to expect. Last time I checked, most people in the workforce are somehow leveraging social media and have their cell phone within arm’s reach throughout their waking hours.

This hyperconnectedness promotes participation. That participation mindset not only changes what we can do but how we expect to engage in life – at work and personally.

Our networks are participatory and peer-driven. We’ve become accustomed to interactions moving sideways, not top-down. This new power model enables the activity of a crowd. “…old power models are enabled by what people or organizations own, know, or control that nobody else does – once old power models lose that, they lose their advantage.”

I love how the book defines New Power: “New power models demand and allow for more: that we share ideas, create new content or assets, even shape a community.”

So what does this all mean for leaders? Bottom line, for a leader to flourish in this new power model, they must channel the participatory energy of those around them.

Here are two ideas about what that looks like:

  • Recognize the need for frequent communication – Rather than viewing millennials as whiny narcissists who need to constantly be praised for doing basic activities, consider how their life experiences have shaped expectations of receiving feedback. Traditionally, organizations have failed to create satisfying feedback loops. Research from Young Entrepreneur Council shows that 80% of millennials would prefer to get feedback in “real time.” Wouldn’t we all? I’d much rather know, in the moment, what I’ve done right or wrong, rather than wait around for my annual performance review. Knowing what is positive or negative allows me to know what to keep doing or stop doing before I do more damage to my reputation. There are even some cool technologies, like TINYpulse, that can help leaders stay connected to their team.


  • Foster development and create opportunities that matter – People want to actively shape their lives, both personally and professionally. Creating opportunities for team members to actively participate in developing solutions, take ownership in meaningful work, and take ownership in developing their careers requires a leader to spend some one-on-one time with each person to discover what they find motivating. What will keep them engaged? Conduct a focused discussion where this is the only topic. I recommend asking each person to rank what aspects of work are most important to them, then rate their level of satisfaction with each. It’s an easy way to see where gaps exist and can facilitate a conversation so a leader will understand how they can make adjustments to drive more engagement.
    • Example aspects of work to ask about:
      • Meaningful Work (work activities, projects, processes)
      • Growth and Opportunities (learning, career progression, and variety of opportunities)
      • The Organization (culture, policies, organization reputation, stability)
      • People (teaming and camaraderie with colleagues and clients)
      • Quality of Life (work/life balance, flexibility, work environment, etc)
      • Financial and Rewards (pay, benefits, recognition)

New Power calls for leaders to create an environment in which their teams can more meaningfully participate and feel ownership. For many organizations, this requires a culture and structural shift. Leaders need to take the lead in encouraging deeper and more rewarding routes for the participation of team members.

Leaders will be well-served by embracing the New Power Values, as described in the book:

  • Informal (networked) governance, opt-in decision-making, self-organizing
  • Collaboration, crowd wisdom, sharing, open-sourcing
  • Radical transparency
  • Maker culture, “do-it-ourselves” ethic
  • Short-term conditional affiliation, more overall participation

Are you ready for the power shift?

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at