Leadership driven organisation has been at the core in past decades. However, as working life is changing, we must be bold in taking courageous steps towards a new kind of organisation. Sharing leadership with joint-directed teams requires structural changes within the organisation, as well as a change in the management’s way of thinking.
The organisation’s ability to continuously learn and reform are key questions for its sustainable operations in the long run. If the organisation is unable to respond to the constantly changing needs of its customers, the prerequisites for its existence will be compromised. To learn and implement what is learned in practice, all employees, regardless of their positions, must be willing to learn and to commit to the organisation’s purpose. In order to achieve this ambition, organisations need to adopt new ways of organising by shifting away from position-based leadership towards an influence-based leadership and joint direction.
STRUCTURE AND MIND-SET AS PRECONDITIONS FOR RETHINKING LEADERSHIP
A newly emerged way to achieve a new kind of dedication is to operate in self-directed teams that enable a lower and less hierarchical organisation. For the sake of clarity, we should call this joint direction, because it is not about independent activities of self-managed individuals, but rather the way of a team to coordinate its operations without a separate leader. In this situation, the team must be able to set mutual goals, define operating principles, resolve problems such as internal disputes, evaluate its success, and develop its operations accordingly.
In practice, this means moving from vertical leadership to horizontal leadership, which involves a change in both the structure and the mind-set. In the paradigm of leadership, transformation is required instead of just developing the small steps. In exercising power, positional power (power over) is replaced by the power of influence (power with).
THE MOTIVES BEHIND THE CHANGE IN LEADERSHIP HAVE AN IMPACT ON SUCCESS
Organisations have very different prerequisites for implementing leadership of the new era. It is much more difficult for organisations with a long history and for larger organisations to implement what has been learned compared to small entrepreneur-led start-ups whose owners have already started to build their operations according to the new paradigm. Learning away from something is a major challenge in the thoughts of both management and employees.
A key factor in success is the actual motive behind a new organisation. Is the transition to self-direction just a new way to cut costs and aim for larger dividends for the owners or a genuine attempt to create a better future? Another motive behind the reform could be that employees would feel that they can participate more, which then helps to create a better employee experience and feeling of significance. Otherwise, self-direction will become a swear word, a new ideology launched by consultants to shift some of the bosses’ work to employees, but nothing else changes and the anxiety and stressfulness of work will only increase. Therefore, the way of thinking when it comes to leadership and organisation needs to change.
ENABLING CONSTRUCTIVE COOPERATION
How can we put into practice a new kind of approach, which reduces hierarchical authority and increases horizontal influence? How can we create preconditions for things not to drift and for teams to proactively take responsibility for operations?
The Human Systems Dynamics Institute has built a model for ensuring the preconditions for constructive and creative cooperation. According to the model, the dedication of the community members and taking joint responsibility for the operations and renewal of the community are affected by the following elements:
Shared identity is associated with the experience of inclusion and significance. The purpose of an organisation must be an attractive and a common link, while everyone must feel that they can be themselves, with their differences included in the community. It is a question of reciprocity between the community’s identity and the individual’s identity.
In this case, shared power means influence, the opportunity to have a concrete impact on decision-making and activities. Reciprocity is a key part of shared power, meaning that everyone must be prepared to be influenced by the ideas of others while aiming to act as active players themselves.
A shared voice is the experience of being heard and wanting to speak up. The success of joint direction requires that the team has sufficient information at its disposal. The key question is whether I can give others room to present their own views, and whether I am willing to express my own views.
Joint-directed operations require continuous dialogue both between team members and between teams in order to be successful. In an organisation in the new era, it is the task of the management and supervisors to advance development towards joint direction.
In practice, this also means giving up control at an appropriate pace. The management must ensure that structures supporting the new operating method are created through, for example, coaching and by facilitating teams until they are prepared to take responsibility. Each employee will have to learn new operating methods, adopt them and commit to them. Examples of such methods include peer-coaching, problem solving and settlement of disagreements together, providing and requesting assistance, bringing up matters, giving and receiving constructive feedback, and ensuring everyone’s own performance. Everyone also needs the skills of self-management as part of successful joint direction.
ARE YOU READY?
People in a leading position can ask themselves:
- Am I willing to give up power and to support and build horizontal leadership?
- Which assumptions guide my operations as a leader, which human concept determines these beliefs? Am I ready to examine these beliefs and, if necessary, reform my own views?
- What do I do when everything does not go right at the first attempt?
Questions for everyone:
- Am I willing to bring up matters in a group and allow others to express their views?
- Am I willing to give and receive constructive feedback from colleagues?
- Am I prepared to make solutions together and commit to them?
- Am I willing to take responsibility for my own success, the success of my team, and the entire community?
- Am I ready to develop my own leadership skills?
To succeed, the organisation in the new era requires leadership of the new era from every employee. Are you ready to accept the challenge?