Guest Post by:
Mike Henry, Chief Instigator
Lead Change Group
One thing I’ve noticed in leadership discussions lately surrounds the idea that everyone is a leader. Some established, experienced leaders withdraw from the idea quickly. “Too many cooks spoil the soup.” Or, “Someone has to be in charge.” How does anyone expect to get anything done when everyone thinks they’re the leader?
Room at the top
In a hierarchical organization, there is only one box at the top. Everyone can’t be in-charge. Someone must be ultimately responsible for what happens on a team. But must everyone else be impotent? Must everyone else wait until a box on the diagram above them opens?
When we were kids, we didn’t have org charts. Whoever showed up played. Sure there were some kids who didn’t get chosen early, but generally, at least in my circles, leadership was a function first of showing up and then either having the ball or having the best idea of which game to play.
New, organic, character-based leaders lead from who they are. It causes some concern in fear-based position-focused organizations, but generally organizations and leaders appreciate individuals who accept responsibility, act like owners , and avoid blaming others or acting like victims. We appreciate people who demonstrate initiative.
But the old top-down org chart just doesn’t create a naturally conducive environment for that type of leadership. We can talk about empowerment and initiative and creativity but there is always this looming idea that someone further up the ladder will stop anything they believe is unnecessary.
New Leaders Avoid Hierarchies
New leaders form something more similar to a tribe or a community. It’s based on connections. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest that the new org structure is more of a project matrix. Seth Godin and others have suggested that everything is now a project. Your vacation is a project, and so is your current job. In a few weeks or months or years, you’ll get involved in another project (or job). Everything is more temporary that we like to think, unless we’re miserable and then everything is less temporary than we’d like.
Connections are the new keys to getting things done. Project management is less about the project or the activities and more about who you can enlist, for how long, and what is their level of commitment. Your connections and your ability to mobilize those connections will determine your success. If the world is one big matrix, how you can connect and with whom are the key questions.
In Tribal Leadership, by Dave Logan, Jack King and Halee Fischer-Wright, the authors noticed something about the stage 4 and stage 5 tribes. The highest most productive tribes built what they called Triad Relationships. A triad relationship is a relationship where one person introduces persons two and three. Two and three go on to build a relationship that no longer requires person one to be involved. That’s a triad relationship.
Can you create connections that outlive your engagement? If we’re going to be leaders who connect and succeed in the new community-based non-hierarchical world, we need to have the confidence and the genuine concern for others that would allow us to enable these triad relationships. A series of triad relationships that exist over time and engage for various projects begins quickly to look like one huge matrix.
So how are you at creating triad relationships? Does your organization support triad relationships or does it still reinforce old-style co-dependent relationships> Can you point to some connections inside or outside your organization that have gone on to produce outcomes not involving you? I can. It’s rich and rewarding to see results from a partnership that you helped to create, even when you’re no longer involved.