Even with idea of collaborative leadership in “flat” organizations, many consider “leadership” as a permeating force that ebbs and flows in and over every nook and cranny of an organization. An example is when the end user is included in the development of the process and their voice actually has measurable value. Leadership taking on such a fluid form is quite effective for creating an amazing organization, but just like any fluid it will begin to take on the shape of its “container” or how it is framed.
An alternative to totally fluid leadership is linear structure. In western culture, default settings generally imply some linear structure be attached to something in order for it to function properly. The argument is made that without having things go through certain processes, usually within a hierarchy of authority, then the desired result won’t happen. It’s as if the process adds a magical element to the result.
Herman Miller has designed a new chair whose back doesn’t have a frame. The material is structured in a way that allows it to support your back, but still conform to your unique shape. The material of the back of the chair has varying densities and firmer support is given in the spinal area and a little more flexible around the shoulders and sides.
What a great example of how to allow our fluid and collaborative approach to leadership to “take shape”, as it were. How different would our leadership look if we chose to get rid of the frame? Imagine an organization where the support was focused on the areas that truly need it for health and was flexible and malleable in its function and form in other areas. Zappos is a great example. The customer service team are told to “think like they’re the general manager”. They don’t have a script to read. They can answer the phone anyway they feel like answering it. If, in their conversation with the customer, they find that there is a tragedy in their life they can even send flowers and a card. That is taking the frame off leadership.
Find creative and innovative ways to take the frame off how we do leadership and allow it to ebb and flow with the unique creativity of those in our organizations. Obviously this isn’t a call to abandon fiscal responsibility, but how ideas develop, how a process is managed (micro-managing), and how we include end users in the process of developing and moving an organization forward can be approached much differently.
Quality leadership can be a catalyst to improve the future, but only by disturbing the present. Can you think of some other ways people can “shake up” the present or take the frame off leadership? Do you have some past examples or past experiences you could share?