Leading through 3600 Intelligent Networks, Knowledge and Skills (the Leadership Quomodo)

Creating and Demonstrating Collective Leadership with the aim of Delivering Public Value

3What do we mean by leadership?

The LINKS360 approach draws intelligence, knowledge and skills together within a collective leadership scenario, based on the principles of adaptive leadership in tackling complex (so-called) “wicked problems’; not wicked in the sense of being evil but, rather, wicked in the sense of their complexity. It also encourages you to think about leadership in a different way. Thinking about leadership in a different way promises to help in shifting away from individual (and often selfish motivations) to collective (more selfless) leadership. We need to re-imagine leadership.

Just as it can be argued that time is very possibly the negotiator’s most scarce resource, even more than money, so we can argue the same for leaders. Time is more important than either money or resources. Therefore, it is imperative to find objective means to assess the likelihood of success early on in the practice of leadership.

Collective leadership values and behaviours can be identified and assessed (see CL section). This helps in developing mechanisms that reflect intelligent leadership practices within a 360° collective leadership context and in achieving the overall goal of creating public value.

We can now explore what is termed ‘LINKS360’ which is ‘Leading through 360º Intelligent Networks and Knowledge’.

As we have reviewed when unpacking the black box of leadership, studies in relation to leadership have traditionally focused on the relationship between the leader and the follower. Contemporary leadership studies need a more empirical approach in looking at how leaders fulfill their role.

The Selfless Leader describes leadership as a shared and distributed process; intelligent leadership is the key to that process. Understanding leadership in this way is a relatively recent approach and, as Pearce and Conger describe it, our understanding:

“of the dynamics and opportunities for shared leadership remains quite primitive” (Pearce and Conger 2003:2).

Heiftez (1994) argued that it is within the process of leadership that its effective evaluation can take place. Leading in a complex world requires both shared and distributed leadership and intelligent leadership sits at the heart of this (Brookes, 2011).

The two terms are often used interchangeably. However, the two terms are distinct. Shared leadership is described as:

A dynamic, interactive influence process among individuals and groups for which the objective is to lead one another to the achievement of group or organizational goals or both.”
(Pearce and Conger, 2003:1)

Some of the important discourses on collective leadership are described:

The HOW question

Distributed leadership is described as a collective and emergent process, which is contextually situated (Carroll et al., 2008).


Pearce and Conger’s work in relation to shared leadership has emerged as an important contribution to the leadership debate and I agree with their contention that demands on leaders have changed as a result of how the performance which is the subject of leadership has changed (Pearce and Conger, 2003).


This is focused on shared beliefs, values and identities (Western, 2007).


Particular leadership skills include creativity and problem solving based on enhanced cross-organizational dialogue, including learning conversations. At the core is the acceptance of relational processes, as there is nothing that a leader or group of leaders does that does not involve relationships in one form or another. There is an emerging leadership research approach that focuses on relational leadership (Uhl-Bien, 2006).


Whether people are open enough to say it or not, every one of us in every relationship or interaction is focused on a single question: ‘What’s in it for me?'”

The authors argue that both parties are focused on the value they hope to receive from the potential relationship or interaction.
(Bonfante, 2011:83)



The WHY question

Other theories align to the question, ‘why’ do leaders lead?

A straightforward explanation is one that suggests aims of inspiring, motivating or stimulating others to achieve a given end. Contemporary theory talks about transforming individual efforts towards a shared vision (Bass et al., 2008).


Collective leadership focuses on the alignment between both ‘distant’ and ‘nearby’ leadership. As Bass argued (acknowledged by Alimo-Metcalfe and Alban-Metcalfe), the “‘founders’ and successors’ leadership shape a culture of shared values and assumptions, guided and constrained by their personal beliefs” (Bass and Avolio, 1993).


There is now an increasing volume of literature in relation to collective leadership. In summary, viewing leadership as a process holds promise. In particular, by engaging with wider stakeholders, a number of benefits emerge.

  • First and foremost, is that a leadership ‘community’ can mitigate the flaws of individual leaders (the ‘who’),
  • the way in which they lead (the ‘what’); and
  • the limitations of individual leaders’ position (the ‘where’).
  • It can also take account of the best time to intervene (the ‘when’) and
  • in defining the steps that need to be taken (the ‘how’).

Reimagining Leadership and the LINKS with geometry

There is only one universal system and that is the universe; all other systems are created by humans and they are thus fallible!


This is the gist of the argument put forward by one of the most inspiring thinkers of the 20th century but one who was often side-lined for his views as he was a man well ahead of his time. This was Buckminster Fuller (affectionately known as Bucky Fuller). Fuller saw the Universe as a generative, self-supporting, self-sustaining entity which provides for all life forms it contains. It is also a universal law that to achieve synergy, the whole system should be the first focus of attention rather than examining the individual parts of the whole (which is where, it is suggested, that cybernetics plays its part). Fullers’ approach is based on what he describes as 12 degrees of freedom which can be simply described as the movement of a rigid body inside space.