No guts, no glory: the evolution of the workplace

Sierra rock climber, going for it.

“No guts, no glory”

“No pain, no gain”

“Keep your nose to the grindstone”

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going”

While there may be some truth in each of these sayings about the workplace, there is a certain hard edge to these approaches to work. And, I don’t know about you, but have you noticed the workplace is changing? Today’s workplace is not your parents’ workplace and it might not even be the one you began your career in. As workplaces evolve over time, so must leadership evolve to remain effective.

One of the biggest changes in the workplace over the last several decades is the transition from what has been called the ‘Dominance Paradigm’ where managers dominate their employees to the ‘Partnership Paradigm’ in which managers partner with their employees (see Eisler, 2007).

After the second world-war, when businesses were looking for managers, they found officers from the military who lead their employees as if they were still at war. They dominated their employees, employees complied, and work got done. The biggest problem with this authoritarian leadership approach was that it was unconcerned with how employees felt about being treated this way. Eventually employees declined to hire on at companies with this reputation for employee treatment, employees would become demotivated, morale would be low, and finally employees would go elsewhere.

Alternately, let’s look at the Partnership Paradigm. As managers in positions of power share their power with others (empowerment) and engage in dialogue and build relationships of trust and actually ‘partner’ with employees, the workplace becomes a place employees want to be. This enables organizations to attract top talent, engage employees, and retain them for future growth.

The more an organization relies on the Dominance Paradigm, the more limited the workplace will be to attract top talent, engage employees, and retain them for future growth.

One of the big assumptions of the Dominance Paradigm is that everyone up the hierarchy knows more and is somehow deserving of more power, authority, and autonomy and everyone down the hierarchy knows less and is somehow deserving of having less power, authority, and autonomy. The Dominance Paradigm is disempowering and demotivating for others. This is documented in Daniel Pink’s brilliant book, “Drive” where he makes the case for intrinsic motivation over the extrinsic motivation inherent in the Dominance Paradigm. The more an organization relies on the Dominance Paradigm, the more limited the workplace will be to attract top talent, engage employees, and retain them for future growth.

Many organizations have already quietly or not so quietly made this transition from the Dominance Paradigm to the Partnership Paradigm, however, many still have a way to go. Making the transition to the Partnership Paradigm, or intentionally evolving, requires that senior leadership offers managers the opportunity to develop new skills. These new skills are the ones frequently overlooked by our public education system and our post-secondary institutions. Which skills you ask? The skills and competencies related to emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is based on the scientific fact that our brains process emotional and  cognitive/logical/rational information simultaneously. Therefore, you may be surprised by how emotions play a vital role in everything we do. Emotional intelligence skills include knowing and understanding how you operate emotionally, understanding how others might operate emotionally and knowing how to communicate clearly and build relationships of trust, loyalty and commitment.

We now have over three decades of research on emotional intelligence and for the last two decades, the Emotional Intelligence Training Company (EITC) has been supporting the development of managers so they can be leaders who create partnerships with others by using the skills and competencies of emotional intelligence. These are the same skills required to make the shift to a Partnership Paradigm. What do you notice about your workplace? Is it characterized by the Dominant Paradigm or the Partnership Paradigm? Be part of the shift. Develop your ability to lead with emotional intelligence by contacting EITC today. Please leave your comments below.


Eisler, Riane (2007) The Real Wealth of Nations, Berrett-Kohler Publishers.

Pink, Daniel H. (2009) Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us, Riverhead Books.

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