How is Collective Leadership practised?
Why is the ‘how’?’ question of leadership so often neglected?
This can be partly answered by the intelligent sharing of experiences, knowledge and resources described as intelligent leadership, which is further discussed in the section on LINKS360.
‘Sharing’ is fundamental.
As one example, effective network building is an essential feature of collective leadership. This requires a focus on shared (horizontal) leadership as well as distributed (vertical) leadership. A matrix approach combining both top-down and bottom-up approaches as well as cross-cutting networked leadership is required.
Sharing and distribution of leadership are central to whole system transformation. To influence whole system transformation, all features must embrace change with implementation at all levels. A top-down alone approach will fail as vision and reality become misaligned. Conversely, a bottom-up approach is unlikely to achieve the desired outcome with the potential for different parts of the system following divergent and conflicting tracks.
A more detailed definition is offered:
Collective leadership is a synergetic process through which leaders work to a shared vision in identifying, influencing and addressing the conditions that present challenges to leaders and where the collective leadership builds both capability and capacity for the delivery of demonstrable socially desirable outcomes.
This is our practical explanation of collective leadership which we can argue is both evidence and research-based. From this research and practice, it is imperative that the collective leadership is both legitimate and accountable, which we turn the attention to in the next section.
What is Quomodo?
The literal translation of ‘Quomodo’ is “the manner or way (of doing something)” (Oxford English Dictionary) or, simply put, it concerns the “How?” question of specific acts that people carry out. Quomodo incorporates and enhances its derivative term ‘Modus Operandi (MO). ‘Quo’ describes the way things are, as opposed to the way they could be, whereas ‘Modo’ (abbreviated ‘MO’) is a distinct pattern or method of operation. It is a particular way of doing something, most notably associated with discovering the method by which a criminal carried out a crime (this was his ‘MO’)!
Quomodo is one of eight interrogative questions through which ancient Latin sought to judge the moral nature of an act carried out.
The practice of leadership is an act conducted by a leader as the actor. To be a legitimate and authentic act those who are led will accept the leaders’ actions through the leader’s legitimate authority and authenticity which is assured through the trust in those who lead them. How leaders lead (their style) represents the act of leadership. How we perceive the legitimacy of a leadership act is like how we think about the moral way in which people do things either to us or around us in our routine lives. The HOW? question represents the foundation for determining the morality or legitimacy of any human act, supported by the WHY? question. Six other interrogative questions provide circumstantial explanations.
Originating from Latin, Quomodo is one of eight types of circumstance or intention that underpins the morality of human acts. These eight circumstances and intentions are represented within what is clearly the oldest question bank (or what is called more precisely an interrogative framework. This is briefly illustrated below but we call this our intelligent leadership framework grounded in six intelligent leadership questions. If you want to understand more about the origins of our Leadership Quomodo, click the ‘read more’ link at the bottom of the page.
There are three factors that determine whether a human act is moral. The same will apply to leadership acts:
The object (the act itself), the intention (of doing the act) and the surrounding circumstances. In taking a sinister but helpful example, is one where one person takes the life of another. There are limited times at which this can be judged lawful, for example at times of legitimate war or in immediate and justified self-defence. The object of the act is straight forward. One person takes the life of another. The act has happened. Judgment of its legality or morality will informed by the intention (or in legal terms for our example, the mens rea, which is the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes the act, as opposed to the carrying out of the act) and the circumstances (the context of the act). In the case of self-defence in which the perpetrator was in immediate fear of her own life, evidence of this circumstance will provide justification for the act provided that the intention was to preserve her own life.
The object of the act is that which is done (what we do) or a happening which creates the moral (or leadership) challenge. All acts can be judged for their moral purpose. The same can be said of leadership which is a human act. Judgment of morality of any act or the legitimacy of a leadership act will primarily rest on the object, of the act. Actors rationally chose to deliberately exercise their will and intellect. The object is the primary indicator of either morality or legitimacy. Intention and circumstance will play a role for others to judge whether an action is good or evil (for morality) or effective or ineffective (for leadership).
In responding to the challenge, a circumstance is something that touches the doing of the human act. It is a state that you may be in, the details surrounding a situation that you find yourself in, or a condition that causes something to occur which affects you. For example, the circumstance of a person may be that they live in poverty. An intention is the motivation for our action (why we chose to do a particular act).
Originating from Latin, Quomodo is one of eight types of circumstance or intention that underpins the morality of human acts. These eight circumstances and intentions are represented within what is clearly the oldest question bank (or what is called more precisely as an interrogative framework.
The 8 Classic Interrogative Questions
Who Leads? It is not necessarily the person with the authority or in the most senior position. Leadership can emerge from any point within the organisation or network. Those closer to the problem are often in the strongest position to come up with the answer. Although some suggest that the leadership question should start with the who, our Leadership Quomodo puts this as the last question (see below).
What leadership style or approach would achieve the desired ends of the leadership intervention? For example, within the context of reform, a transformational leadership style will be better than a purely transactional one. As always, balance is necessary, but change requires creativity and innovation supported by processes, form and structure.
What leadership act was done or what response was decided? Again, this is not the first question but is still an important leadership response. The act is part of the intervention, hence in drawing up an action plan to tackle the challenge and mobilise others to play a part.
Where was the act carried out or where is the leadership response most needed? We can consider place as an important component of the leadership challenge. In many cases, the circumstances leading to the act will unfold in different ways and different places. Leaders will need to take this into account once the leadership challenge has been identified and before deciding on the response.
When is leadership action most needed? It is important to ensure that the timing of the leadership act is as close as it can be to the leadership. Need. The needs of the leadership challenge and those most affected by it should outweigh the needs of the leader or leadership. Professional leadership judgement will be exercised although the leaders should engage integrated and intelligent problem solving.
What was the act aimed at? It represents the object of the act being carried out. The meaning of circa is ‘about’ and this could be considered as part of the leadership act (the quid) to either influence another person to do what the leader wants that other person to do or the application of energy (whether mental or physical) on the subject of the leadership act, for example, the modification of organisational structures, work procedures or processes which indirectly impact the people involved.
Why has the leader led in this way or why does the leader need to act? What are the leader’s motivation to do what she wants to do; What is driving her to do this? Is it a selfless act (in addressing the public interest) or a selfish act (to further her own agenda or to satisfy her ego?)
How does the leader lead or, what approach does the leader (or leadership) need to take, given the why and the what? What styles of leadership are practised and what means are used to achieve the desired outcomes of the leadership acts?
Collins, J. C. (2001) Good to great : why some companies make the leap– and others don’t. London: Random House Business.
Sinek, S. (2011a) Start with why : how great leaders inspire everyone to take action. London: Portfolio Penguin.
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