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How do great leaders thrive in uncertain times? By changing their mindsets about power.
If you let go of hierarchy, chaos will reign…or so many leaders believe.
But when leaders find the courage to distribute rather than hoard power, creativity multiplies, trust deepens, and inclusivity expands…and a new kind of order emerges.
For decades, leaders forced their organizations to look like a pyramid, with all authority flowing from the top. That didn’t work. Next, experts told leaders to adopt “bottom-up” leadership. But that’s not working either. Top-down and bottom-up are the same organizational shape. And neither approach really enables innovation, collaboration, or enthusiasm. The problem is the Pyramid.
A few rare leaders have seen the pyramid for the trap that it is and have learned to embrace a new shape and mindset: Constellations. Organizations designed as constellations are dynamic and flexible networks of distinct yet interwoven individuals. Each member of the team feels like a singular star and is also connected to others to form something greater. That is how Visa reimagined how we pay for things, how Wikipedia beat the richest company in the world and how Barack Obama and his grassroots team revolutionized political campaigning. These leaders did what most leaders dread – they gave away power.
In this practical and personal journey, Barzun brilliantly layers lessons across history and industries with his own experiences as an internet entrepreneur, political organizer, and US ambassador to the United Kingdom and Sweden. With lessons for leaders of all types, The Power of Giving Away Power shows how the Constellation mindset shines in some of the most impactful organizations and innovations the world has ever known. And it encourages us all to recognize, as Barzun writes, "the power we can create by seeing the power in others" ― and making the leap to lead. Together.
“A leadership manifesto like you’ve never read before. Every page is eye-opening, provocative and energising.” Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit
“Matthew Barzun might well be the first modest man to write a great book on leadership. This is a gift.” Richard Thaler, Novel Prize laureate and co-author of Nudge
“An extraordinary book about human flourishing, about linking properly to the best bits of ourselves and others to move mountains. Enlightening and brain reviving.” Alain de Botton
“An incredibly timely book and blueprint into how power and leadership should operate across the world.” Sir David Adjaye, OBE
‘A brilliant challenge to conventions that have held back organisations for decades and a crisp playbook for making distributed leadership work for everyone.” Ted Sarandos, co-CEO and chief content officer of Netflix
“With compelling personal and historical stories Barzun artfully makes the case for replacing the ‘Great Man’ myth of leadership through empowering others.” Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor, University of Oxford
“Bursting with insight, vision and creativity, The Power of Giving Away Power is a groundbreaking analysis of political leadership. Drawing on an unparalleled pedigree of experience, Barzun proves that we can build a better future if we build it together.” David Lammy
“As we grapple with the challenges facing the world, we need to build bridges across cultures and communities. With The Power of Giving Away Power, Matthew Barzun presents a type and quality of leadership that is inspiring, thoughtful – and incredible timely.” Baroness Valerie Amos
“This book is a breakthrough. It’s beautifully written, perfectly timed, and heralds a new way forward. I’m buying a dozen copies to share with friends and colleagues.” Seth Godin, founder of altMBA and author of The Practice
Matthew Barzun has always been fascinated by how we can stand our and fit in at the same time. He helped countries do both when he served as US ambassador to the United Kingdom and to Sweden. He helped citizens do both as a national finance chair or Barack Obama by pioneering new ways to have a stronger voice in politics. And he helped tech consumers do both as an entrepreneur when he joined a team of three to start up CNET Networks in the early 1990s. Barzun was raised on the East Coast, started his career on the West Coast, and settled in the middle in Louisville, Kentucky with his wife, Brooke, and their three children.