A new role for leadership in the future of work?

Thoughts from the fifth video in the Future of Work Series [Reading time: 3 mins]

Traditional leadership models will need to shift from a lone command mentality and focus on engagement in the future work environment.

Innovation requires the boss to become an enabler of talent, to be more descriptive than prescriptive. Leaders will need to set direction and shape an open culture of trust if they want to empower collaboration and decision making. 

The wisest decisions are made by those closest to the problem.

Information is important to decision making, it is the fuel that powers the process. In a dynamic business environment, the ability to receive valuable intelligence can provide the competitive edge required to thrive. Ret. General Stanley McChrystal describes what he achieved during his time as US Marine commander as Shared Consciousness.

The open sharing of information provides a contextual big picture to everyone on the team. This raises their collective ability to perform, to achieve beneficial insights. This Shared Consciousness concept allows leadership and decision making process to have uninterrupted information flow from the most knowledgeable - those closest to the problem. If those closest to a particular problem also have an understanding of the big picture they can more accurately diagnose and then relay the best intelligence back to leadership and their team. How do you move toward the concept of Shared Consciousness?

Generosity and similarity helps to build trust.

In a competitive environment there is often a withholding of information for advantage or ownership. This behaviour restricts the flow of beneficial information needed for innovative decision-making. Great teams share. Sharing requires trust which requires a strong positive culture among team members.

One of the best ways of building trust is through being generous. Generosity evokes gratitude in people which is a powerful psychological reminder and willingness to pay something back. Also beneficial to build trust is cultivating a similarity to others. Through understanding how similar you are to others increases your ability to communicate effectively, build rapport and will act and appear more trustworthy to them. 

Leaders need to get out of the way

Leaders need to focus on orchestrating those elements required to build an open culture of trust and sharing. They will need to shift from ‘acting like a boss’ to a conductor of talent. Leaders will need to set the direction and create an environment where collaboration and sharing is considered a requirement and is openly valued and rewarded.

Interestingly Claudia Hamm even speculates a future where the ‘boss’ position might become a collectively selected role from within a team, operating in a mentor/coach capacity rather than act as a traditional leader. 

These ideas point to leadership becoming more a part of the process, part of the collective,  rather than being ‘in control’. In a fast global disintermediated business environment the perception of control is merely that, a perception. The micromanaging lone leader can cause more issues than solutions, will ultimately slow down innovation with one way, turgid communication and decision making loops. Ret. General McChrystal emphasises this when he ends the video with:

 “My biggest decision was simply to keep it moving to let the organisation go where the organisation’s combined wisdom took it. And what I found was much more rewarding to me to see how much we could do cumulatively, how much we could accomplish and how much I didn’t have to put my hands on the tiller. How much I could have, as we used to call it, eyes on, hands off.”