Hey EP&P/Customer Solutions Leaders,
Here are three resources for next week’s Leader summit. You’ll want to both listen to the podcast and read the attached article. These will set you up for our summit and the breakouts we’ll have during the summit. Also, I’ve provided the disturbed leader team behavior image.
Thoughts on Distributing the Leadership
Thoughts on Distributed Leadership – 10:14:21, 1.21 PM
Thu, 10/21 6:41AM • 23:12
distributed, leadership, inertia, leader, organization, people, solution, important, power, team, delegation, upstream, disrupt, adapt, solve, behaviors, seize, downstream, lead, organizational chart
Hey EP NP and customer experience leadership team.
This is Dave Fleming. I’m sitting in the ingenuity lab. And I’m thinking about distributed leadership. It’s our topic for our next leader summit coming up in just about a week. And it’s part of a three piece strand of behaviors and skills and mindsets that we’ve wrapped under the banner of future ready.
What does it mean to be future ready, it means
as the world around us, externally, and the world within us, inside our company,
as both of those worlds continue to adapt into the future, we want to be ready for those needed adaptations in response.
So a simple example of this would be
a software developer who has an app on the iPhone. And occasionally, the iPhone comes up, or comes out with an update. Yeah, we all know it, right? update your phone. And all of a sudden, because of some of the updates made it Apple, current versions of apps no longer work either as well, or in some cases at all. And so there have to be people inside the companies who are making the apps that are always adapting to the changes made at Apple, with regard to the software and hardware of the phone.
And if they are not future ready, if they’re not able to adapt quick enough, then they lose either because their app doesn’t work as well, or it doesn’t work at all. Now, we could apply this to all kinds of Well, almost endless circumstances and situations both in life and at work.
We want to talk about it, of course, in light of your leadership,
how do you help to facilitate a future ready, team, a future ready department, a future ready organization?
So we talked about pro achievement. We talked about distributing the leadership? And we talk about creative solution making as three important skills. Are there more? Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, we’ve landed on these three, maybe you could call them Uber skills, because so many other skills are connected to them. Pro achievement, distributing the leadership, and creative solution making. Now last month, we looked at pro achievement. In this summit, we’re going to look at distributed leadership, and in the next we’ll look at creative solution making. And really, we pull these apart so we can examine them, because they do have elements that are different. But they all come together to create that future ready, individual and future ready, organization.
So let’s talk to us for a few minutes about distributed leadership, and why it’s so critical to a future ready organization. So when we think about being
adaptive from the place of distributed leadership, we’re not just talking about delegation. That’s the first thing I want to say. Distributing the leadership isn’t just a clever way of talking about delegation, where a leader has either a project or a piece of work, and they’re trying to give others opportunities or lighten their own load so they can focus on other things, or just increase the genius of the team by handing things to other people and letting them run with it. We call that delegation. And we’ve spent a lot of years in organizational development, talking about delegation. It’s a very surface part of distributing the leadership. I mean, it is part of distributed leadership, because if the leader doesn’t delegate anything, how does the leadership really ever get distributed? But it’s it’s a really very surface part of it. Important? Yes, but not I would say even at the core, you can almost say, delegation is implicit in distributing the leadership. But there are far more core ideas to distributing the leadership.
If I had to sort of put my finger on a few of the more important elements that make delegation possible. Here’s how I would say it. Number one, distributed leadership is about sharing power. How do we share power in an organization we have people at quote
different levels of leadership. We have a CEO, we have a senior team, we have senior directors, mid level directors, supervisors, individual contributors, and you know, different organizations have different ways of, quote, categorizing these levels. But in the end, without a shared power base, and distributed energy, what can we actually get done? I mean, we’ve talked about this before, could Susan, the CEO at un s, Could she run the entire show? Well, you know, obviously, no. So we have this way of thinking that the more elevated your position, the more power you have. And in some sense, that’s true. That’s why the higher you rise, the more humble you need to be. Because you’re, you are at times holding a bit more power in your hand. But I’ve coached dozens of CEOs. And what they all tell me is, really, I don’t feel like I have a lot of power, I report to a board, I have competing agendas from my own senior leader teams, not to mention the people in the organization. So they describe this web of forces that actually feel like they reduce the power of the CEO.
Well, the same is true for all of us. And that’s why distributed leadership is concerned about how power gets shared, and how energy is distributed in an organization. So that no matter where you are, on what I call the stream of the organization, whether you’re upstream, which we would translate in an organizational chart kind of way to the top, midstream organizational chart would be the middle and downstream would be down at the bottom of those boxes on an org chart, right? upstream, midstream downstream, and I like to think of it as a stream up mid and down, because it has a more accurate feel to what it’s really like to be in an organization. But the one of the dangers, maybe that’s too strong of a word. But one of the illusions of an organizational chart, is that when we think of someone higher up, even, even in in space, when we think of someone higher up, like I can get a better view of Tucson by going up to a mountain or up to certain parts of Mount Lemmon before I get too high, and I can’t see Tucson anymore, but I can get better view globally. And so we tend to think, Oh, well, people up at the top of an org chart are also,
you know, granted a better view.
Not the case. Who’s going to know first if there’s something going wrong on your team? You are Susan?
Yeah, exactly. There’s no way Susan would know unless the smoke from the fire was so great that she could see it, or someone would tell her. So distributed leadership to me starts with an understanding of how we share power and sharing power. Well,
how do you share power? Well, with your team, sharing power well.
So then distributed leadership is interested in moving the energy of the team of the organization in a way to disrupt unhealthy inertia.
So as human beings, we all are prone to inertia, we know scientifically inertia is this quality of an object stays at rest, until some outer force moves it or moves the same speed and direction until an outer force also disrupts it. And a disruptor is a catalyst, something hits it, if you will. And so so inertia, the scientific definition of nurture has two parts to it, something’s at rest, it’s going to stay in rest until it’s disrupted, something moving a certain speed or direction is going to continue to move that same speed or direction until something disrupts it right. So there’s two ways something can be in inertia. It’s not moving, or it’s moving the same speed and direction. Now, you know, gravity, drag all these properties of physics, immediately. Put some kind of external force on something that’s why things don’t go the same speed and direction the whole time, because you can’t but the cool thing is, if you could create a way to have zero drag, and you could have a long big vacuous space and throw something it would just keep going
Well, human beings are also prone to that kind of inertia. Sometimes people on a team gets stuck, they’re not moving. Sometimes teams are moving, but they’re not moving the right direction or at the right speed. I mean, I’ve heard lots of leaders say, Well, I got to slow that team down. Or Yeah, they’re sort of off in the weeds over here. And and I’m not able to, you know, bring them over, I’ve got to help them get back to something that we’re really focused on. So inertia is a quality of human experience, and human collaboration as well. And so what we’re really looking to do in distributed leadership, first is spot the inertia, where have we either stalled or are going the wrong direction at the wrong speed? And is there a way to catalyze a change that could get us to a better spot so we can continue with our mission. So that power sharing is the first element I want to highlight. disrupting inertia is the second part of distributed leadership that I want to highlight that’s super core, you can see now this is way more than delegation. Now delegation might actually be a good example of a catalyst that could get someone moving in a different direction. I had a leader in my life I worked for for 11 years, and he was brilliant at catalyzing me out of my inertia, I would get bored, or I would need a different challenge or, and he didn’t want me to leave, I was adding value to the organization. And so he would notice these moments of inertia starting where I was starting to plateau, and he would either give me something new to do, put me in charge of something, create new responsibility, give me a bone, and it would bust up that disruption, if you will. He recently died I, I have very, not only fun memories of his leadership, but
of his effect on my life.
So a third element is once I know what that distributed leadership is about the process of sharing power, distributing energy, to disrupt inertia through a meaningful catalyst that helps us advance the direction and, and the work that needs to be done to keep our mission moving. Then I really asked myself, the the heart of the question is, well, what does that look like? How do you distribute leadership? How do you distribute leadership. And that’s the really the fourth element here, you distribute leadership through simple but very powerful processes that help people lead to gather, lead together. And I will have to say, you all do this a lot. You do this a lot. This can happen through meaningful conversations where we bust things out of inertia together by coming around, pushing on them, pulling on them, thinking about them, and boom, out, you know of that idea weaving pops something that is really important and away, we go together on it.
This can come as we circle around needed solution, and we talk about it and we push on it and and we come up with something that is a good, workable solution. Remember, all solutions are going to eventually fail because we’re working in a complex adaptive system. So no solution is forever. But we need solutions that help us like booster rockets get to the next place advanced the next place in our work. We’ll talk about that at the next leader summit.
So what is a simple process? Well, in my work in research, over the years, I’ve seen four important elements that help define what distributed leadership looks like in action. So remember, we are sharing power and energy to disrupt inertia through a catalyst that helps us advance our mission in new and important ways. We do that through a simple process that isn’t about a top down leader telling everybody what to do. There are times for directives, of course, and sometimes a directive can be a catalyst. But the lion’s share of the kind of work that we do requires the genius of the team
requires the team to be facilitated in a way where when they’re really working to solve or to do something important, formal leadership at one level dissolves. When they’re working together. You really can’t tell who’s the formal leader because they’re all doing something together. That creates the the, the enterprise, the whoosh of leading they are leading to
And that is evident because they’re coming around something together. And they’re together, discovering what’s needed and executing on that. And that is leader that is leading leading is doing that. So here are just four really simple things. We’ve talked about these before. But here they are, number one, when a problem or an opportunity emerges in the field, a team that is good at distributing leadership rallies around it, they rally around it, and they rally around it in a certain way. They rally around it with a one mindedness to either solve it, if it’s a problem, or seize it, if it’s an opportunity that should be seized. So they come with the mindset that we’ve got to find a way to do this. So they rally Well, they don’t rally and complain endlessly. Complaining has some part in a solution making world. We’ll talk about that again next time too. So some complainings, okay, because complaining is often how we spot problems, but you can’t stay there. And they also don’t live in blame. And they also don’t eclipse the possibility of change by saying, well, we don’t have the right resources. So Oh, well, if we had more money, or time or people Oh, well, they rally with this one mindedness to solve and to seize. And they then ask what I call the power question. Do we have the authority resources and permission to solve this or seize this on our own? Without our leader? Maybe maybe the leader is not present at the time?
And if the answer is yes, they solve it, or they seize it?
If the answer’s no, then they create a working solution that shows how they would solve it with the help of their leader, and they go to their leader. Now, this is really important. Because many people over the years have been schooled to simply vomit the problem to their leader, hey, the solution is not my problem. That’s why you get paid the big bucks. And I call this vomiting the problem? it you know, they come in, hey, we got a problem. You know, I mean, lots of people can see it. I mean, it’s just Whoa. But then they just turn around and walk back out.
But a team that’s good at distributing the leadership says no, no, no, we’re going to actually create a working solution ourselves. And even in the working solution, we’re going to, we’re going to sort of factor our leader in, then we’re going to go to our leader and say, Hey, here’s the problem, or the solution, I mean, excuse me, or the opportunity, here’s how we think we could solve it or seize it. And here’s how we need you. So see, instead of this being from upstream, down, or top down, it’s downstream up. So the energy is coming from the team up to the leader.
And then, of course, then when the leaders in the in the mix, and she has to decide, do I with my team have the authority permission, and okay to do this on our own. And sometimes it means I got to bring my leader in. So then the working solution
factors in the next level of leader upstream, or other people, other stakeholders. So they rally, they ask the power question, and this is a really important thing. They might not say, Let’s ask the power question. Of course, I’m giving that a name. But they talk about boundaries, responsibility, authority, can we do this? Who else needs to be involved? They actually talk about that. But they don’t then say, Well, okay, we can’t do it. Oops, oh, well, up to our leader.
I’ve never met a leader who doesn’t want people on teams, finding problems or opportunities, and coming up with working solutions to go after those. And then bringing those working solutions to the leader and saying, we don’t have the authority to do this, but you do with us, here’s how we think it should be done. And here’s how you would need to be involved. What do you think? I mean, leaders crave that kind of initiative taking solution making
leadership from other people.
Now, if they have the authority, the team they solve, if they don’t, they bring their leader into the working solution and factor them in, and then they build the solution and they adapt along the way. And that is what we’ll talk about next time rally, ask the power question.
then determine which What do we need our leader or not? or other leaders or other people or not? And you know, most of the time the answer to that is Yeah, of course. We need others. But some
times a team has the authority in the purview to make certain things happen.
And then they they solve and sees well, and that’s a whole different process for next month, and then they adapt along the way that is distributing the leadership.
a power base and energy in an organization
that gets stuck in certain ways. There’s inertia, we want to bust that inertia with appropriate disruption. We want that disruption to lead to an advancement of important parts of our mission. And then we want the team to be able to rally, ask the power question, create the solution and adapt along the way. Now, the last part of
distributed leadership are qualities that have to be present in people for it to work. Now, I actually talked about this in the article I sent you take a look at that. And you can read about it there. But there are three behaviors that are needed for a leader to be able to release energy into the, onto the team so that distributed leadership can happen. Those are the ability of each person on the team to align to the mission and important priorities on an ongoing basis.
And then to
partner well. And to be pro achieving, you have to have those three together. If someone is low in the nutrient scale on one of those three behaviors, it’s harder for a leader to release a formal leader.
The formal leader, lead, one of the core elements of former leadership is release. It’s about release. So here, here, this is important for you all as leaders, one of the most important leadership qualities is the ability to release things to your team.
Because that’s how you distribute the leadership. But you can’t do that if you don’t have trust. How do you build more trust, you have people who are aligned, proactive or pro achieving and
partnering Well, you have those three behaviors on an ongoing basis, much easier to release the way I like to say this is as a leader,
as as trust increases, leader releases as, as trust increases, I really botched that as trust increases, a leader releases.
So take a look at that on the article I sent. And we’ll have
a pretty significant discussion about the concept of distributed leadership, the elements of it, and how to do it. And we’re also going to hear from people in the organization who are practicing distributed leadership. Looking forward to it. Have a good rest of your day.
Spread the Love Article
Click the link to access the article. Spread the Love – Three Qualities That Help Distribute The Leadership