The Power of Giving Away Power: How the Best Leaders Learn to Let Go by Matthew Barzun
Optimism Press, May 1, 2021
What do the Great Seal on a U.S. dollar bill, Mary Parker Follet, campaign volunteers, and fractals all have in common? In his recent book, Matthew Barzun connects them in his defense of the Constellation mindset for leadership and teams. Unlike the Pyramid mindset and its “power-over” style, Constellation leadership embraces a “power with” approach. It utilizes interdependence and engenders a freedom to work together with “shared principles, habits, and sentiments” when responding to a situation. Along with historical lessons and data, Barzun depicts the Constellation mindset in anecdotes from his time as the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom. He shares tangible tools leaders can use to employ the Constellation mindset; they include three expectations to take into every meeting, “fruitful friction” that creates special relationships, and the snowflake test. Barzun’s storytelling and philosophy will inspire leaders. His candidness in falling into Pyramid mindset traps implies how careful and intentional a leader must be to preserve an interdependence culture. Schools using a distributed leadership model will find similarities and resonance in Barzun’s work. These connections will enlighten the school’s vision for its leadership and also provide specific practices worth trying.