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The Outsized Benefits of “Minimalist” Leadership

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  • Although we have known about the benefits of servant leadership for a long time, many CEOs are still far from putting it into practice. While minimalist leadership may feel counterintuitive and uncomfortable, those who dare to practice it will gain an edge in industries requiring engaged and innovative employees. They’ll also eliminate the bottlenecks that often happen when CEOs insist on retaining too much control. But the shift to it will require unlearning counterproductive practices more than learning new things. Finland, one of the least-hierarchical countries in the world, is at the forefront of the trend. This country could be considered a laboratory for the low-status, humble approach the author calls Nordic minimalist leadership. CEOs who practice it are less visible, try to avoid being the center of attention, and assert less control. They let employees shine, put the good of the company above their own egos, and ultimately build stronger and more-innovative businesses.

    “My goal is to be the world’s least-powerful CEO,” declares Ilkka Paananen, the cofounder and CEO of Helsinki’s $2 billion mobile game company, Supercell. Paananen believes that the secret to producing hits is to attract highly talented employees, give them ridiculously ambitious targets, and then let them loose to decide among themselves what products to make. With billion-dollar blockbusters such as Clash of Clans, Hay Day, and Clash Royale, the company has proved that the strategy of not disturbing people with too much leadership can work magic.

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