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Collective Leadership: a new era?

27 April 2011 1,576 views One Comment
by Denisa Oosthuizen
One of the most interesting readings I had in the past months was Deloitte’s “As One” book. I was expecting a “manual” on leadership, possibly slightly different than the thousands of book published annually on leadership. Instead I have found refreshing, inspirational stories of collective behaviour and the individuals behind these case studies.
“As One” describes, as portrayed in its introductory chapter, “how individuals can collaborate to achieve great results”.  Although the idea of effective collaboration is not new, the approach used, psychologically speaking, opens new doors on how we see and think of leadership. Firstly, there isn’t a sole recipe for leadership.  The eight archetypes investigated by Deloitte are easy to grasp and based on who gives the orders and the degree freedom followers have to execute. What is worth of considering is the variety of leadership styles and the fact that leaders are not invincible or capable of showing and imposing the way forward alone – the people must get involved, and the book strongly focuses on the degree of involvement followers have.
Last but not least, the whole picture of leader and followers as separate entities is blurred.  They co-exist in a perfect harmony, even under the pressure of rules and regulations. The command and control leadership model doesn’t look so scary anymore – in fact, it is a necessity according to the situation. Imagine a case of emergency when people need guidance and strict rules to overcome it. But again, we often find organization and companies in today’s world when collaboration is not as effectively implemented – if any – as it should be, where people are working without knowing the purpose or the company’s goals and directions for the year to come, where people are not encouraged to voice their opinions or just denied these rights, where people are expected to work as robots, complete tasks, receive their paycheck and do it all over again for months, years, even decades.  Are companies really interested in what they think? Do they think that their input might bring any value? Do they want to hear solutions from their workers?
I think the problem we have today in some of the companies we are talking about is the “I know everything” syndrome. Leaders, managers, CEOs, they are all too scared of admitting their mistakes, too afraid of asking for guidance, too ego-centric. They don’t want to be blamed or accused of mismanagement and this is understandable. So many companies fail on ego alone. If we could open ourselves to the world, to our workers/followers, ask and listen, the whole concept of effective collaboration will then become so seamlessly and natural. We would then understand why we have shied away from this in the first place, and most importantly, realize how humans work together and how can they improve their work through collective leadership.  Because, first and foremost, companies are about people.  People that want to reach their potential and be part of a greater thing.
Read also “The Power of Collective Leadership” by Denisa Oosthuizen.
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One Comment »

  • Sam Bradley said:

    Collective leadership looks to be one of the hot topics at the moment, and the book sounds great! Nice work Deloitte.

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