SYNDICATING THE WORK OF LEADSHIP
As the environment becomes more complex and less predictable, it becomes ever more difficult for a small cadre of senior executives to anticipate the future, set strategy and make critical resource tradeoffs. That’s why so many CEOs in recent years have seemed to fall short of expectations. The problem has less to do with their lack of competence, than with a management model that expects too much from too few, and too little from everyone else.
Historically, there was a clear distinction in most organizations between executives, managers and operators. Top-level executives made the big strategic decisions, middle managers ensured alignment and exercised control, and first-level operators did the grunt work of implementation. The problem with this model is that it concentrated the responsibility for enterprise leadership at the top—in individuals who were time-starved, far removed from customers, only dimly aware of emerging trends, and overly fond of the past.
Tomorrow’s winning organizations won’t be the ones with the smartest or most dynamic CEO, but the ones that have figured out how to maximize their total leadership endowment. To do this, a company must distribute the work of executive leadership across the entire organization. At a minimum, this means ensuring that team members at all levels are …
- Equipped with the business intelligence they need to make real-time tradeoffs to maximize enterprise success.
- Involved directly in setting strategy and direction.
- Empowered to launch new initiatives with a minimum of bureaucratic controls.
- Encouraged to experiment with new management methods and processes (around compensation, performance review, resource allocation, etc.)
- Able to play a role in evaluating and selecting executives for key roles.
In a nutshell, the best way of overcoming the “leadership limits” of the top team is by increasing the opportunities for “executive” leadership everywhere else in the organization.
How can we distribute the work of “executive” leadership (setting strategy, defining values, allocating resources, making key appointments, etc.) in ways that overcome the “cognitive limits” of the top team and fully exploit the leadership talents of individuals across the organization?