What do we mean by leadership?
“Doing the right things, in the right way, by and for the right people, in the right places and with the right impact’.”
A salient point that we make throughout our discussions is that “one of the key challenges for leadership in the modern world is that there has been too much management and not enough leadership”. Leadership has also been described as “doing the right things” whereas management can be viewed “as doing things right”. Here, we prefer paraphrasing Aristotle in describing this in more detail; leadership concerns “doing the right things, in the right way, by and for the right people, in the right places and with the right impact” including also, “at the right time”?”
Drawing these components together highlights the relevance of a collective approach to the practice of leadership as well as the importance of accountable leadership in measuring impact. We explore each of the six elements of this statement considering them within the three I’s of the critical components of collective leadership discussed in our earlier section. The first of the components is intelligent leadership in making the unknown known, supported by the second which is that of inclusive leadership comprising relationships and purpose, and the third which provides a solid foundation, namely integrated leadership. Our key purpose is to draw the ship of leadership together across collaborating networks.
The Components of Collective Leadership
Although suggested components of collective leadership exist separately and often determine leadership practice in isolation from each other, the term ‘collective leadership’ suggest that each work in combination and interdependently. This implies that leaders act in a way where both or all parties to the leadership depend on each other, irrespective of the level of leadership or where it takes place. The benefits of the application of collective leadership are that:
- The collective is more likely to enhance knowledge by determining answers in reducing the gap between that which is known and that which is unknown through the application of intelligent leadership.
- Those who are closer to the problem or leadership challenge are more likely to come up with appropriate solutions. The role of the collective leadership is to ask the intelligent question and then enable collective others to come up with intelligent solutions through inclusive leadership.
- Time and space are provided to envision, enable, and empower people through integrated leadership in aligning the different levels of leadership across collaborating networks. The collaboration takes place through applied leadership focused on shared challenges.
Are we doing the right things for the right reasons?
This question can be answered by collective leaders asking intelligent leadership questions as opposed to individual leaders who think that they need to provide the answer to the question/s. The role of a collective leader is to ask the intelligent leadership question and then allow collective others to come up with the solutions. Intelligent leadership is less to do with personal or emotional intelligence but is more to do with collective intelligence in applying knowledge and understanding to the practice of leading.
It is reasonable then to suggest that the concept of leadership is highly complex, yet its practice can be applied in an intelligent way to achieve the outcomes that are desired. This is accomplished by recognising the differing contexts within which diverse styles or approaches to leadership can be applied by understanding the dynamics of the contexts and in matching appropriate mechanisms for the situation. Previous theories and discussions on leadership have declared different approaches, as our initial section on the history of leadership has described. There is NO one-best way. Our suggestion is that collective leadership will rely on the strengths of intelligence in matching style to situation for the right purposes.
There are three levels to the process of intelligent leadership:
- Information (identifying an issue or problem)
- Analysis (leading to intelligence and assessment)
- Understanding (of the issue or problem and its solutions)
These levels are discussed further in the sub-topic on intelligent leadership.
Building and applying the right skills of the right people, at the right time
Inclusive leadership appears to have first emerged in the discussions on leadership in the work of Edwin P. Hollander (1978, 1984) entitled Leadership Dynamics: A practical guide to effective relationships. Described as the “father” of inclusive leadership Hollander grounded his thinking in the norms of reciprocity; what you do for me, I will do for you. He defined the term building on the classic work of Mary Parker Follett’s (1949) concept of “doing things with people, not to people”. Inclusive leadership is clearly aligned with relational leadership which describes the leader’s intent of listening and responding to his follower’s needs and acknowledging the need for her availability to followers. Characteristics include openness, accessibility, and availability in the interactions between leaders and followers. Hollander is attributed as being one of the leading commentators in shifting the discussion on leadership from a leader-centric, top-down focus to a more balanced approach in taking account of followers.
We take a wider view on the meaning of inclusive within the context of collective leadership and suggest that relational leadership is viewed as a component of inclusive leadership rather than the other way around. The OED defines inclusiveness as :
“Including all or many elements or aspects of something; comprehensive; all-embracing”.
Practising leadership in the right way with the right people and in the right places
We draw together different levels and different approaches to leadership matching these to context and provide an applied leadership challenge space (whether virtual or physical). We consider the levels of leadership and how to develop these through applied leadership challenges in creating a leadership ‘space’ in the final section. For now, we will look at what we mean by integrated leadership.
Components of collective leadership exist separately and often determine leadership practice in isolation from each other. Collective leadership suggest that each work in combination and interdependently. In promoting the benefit of integrated leadership (the final ‘i’ of 3i’s) we have aligned an eight E framework which also includes the previous two I’s of intelligent and inclusive leadership. The framework describes how leaders can influence change through transformational approaches to leadership. The process of transformation begins with enacting the leadership by influencing actions and improvement through questioning, listening and then responding. We make no apology for being consistent in aligning these actions to the six ILQs. The process of integrated leadership is then supported by an evaluation as the foundation for continuous improvement through the Applied Leadership Space.
To work in or upon; to actuate, influence through ‘Questioning, Listening and Responding’
To bring the vision to the whole (To see or foresee as in a vision; to envisage; to visualize.)
WHY do we want to do this?
To urge, exhort, persuade, induce … between parties towards achievement of the vision
WHO do we engage?
To consider others’ views based on understanding and appreciating another person’s feelings or values
WHAT is important to whom?
To impart to (a person or agent) power (influence) necessary or adequate for a given aim; to make competent or capable
WHERE can we have the greatest impact?
To give (a person or institution) the means, ability, or strength to do something.
WHEN can we achieve what we want to achieve?
Determining the value of what has been achieved and why
Applied Leadership Challenge Space in creating Mutual Accountability
An Applied Leadership Challenge Space (ALCS) can be either physical or virtual. It is ‘where’ the ‘collective’ leadership comes together to discuss, identify, and respond to leadership challenges. Within the space, the process of determining how to respond to the challenges takes place through applied leadership sets (ALSs). The ALSs are grounded on the principles of action learning and reflective practice. It creates the opportunity to provide mutual accountability across teams at all levels and within and across networks. Mutual accountability is often what is missing in collective leadership which can address known problems and leadership deficits. Good leaders will want to be accountable. Our final topic in this section is dedicated to the ALCS and ALSs.
What is a leadership deficit and How do we deal with it?
A leadership deficit is not an individual flaw (which is often associated with personal failings or misgivings such as incompetence, lack of confidence or pure laziness) but a lack of leadership that results in institutional, organisational or team dysfunction. This builds on the initial discussion in previous topics in which we considered the ‘ship’ of ‘leadership’.
How do we recognise a leadership deficit?
The same old things keep happening time and time again … (we seem to keep going around in circles). Whilst it is predictable, the patterns just keep repeating. The senior bosses complain about being overloaded, the shop floor workers or those who deliver the services complain that no one is listening, and they are continually being asked to do the impossible. Middle leaders complain that they are ‘stuck in the middle trying to keep the ‘top bosses’ happy as well as their line reports.
Does this sound familiar?
This is what we describe as the leadership deficit syndrome. It is a pattern of inaction, misguided management and poor motivation that happens with alarming regularity. The predictable response to this is one in which we all know things are wrong but where we all assume that it is someone else’s job to put it right. In the meantime, we all wait around waiting for the fixers to fix it and continue to get disheartened, demotivated and disengaged. Ultimately, people leave the team or the organisation and, in their place, comes another person who eventually feels the same.
What can we do about this?
Leadership is a collective, but the tendency is to bring individual leaders together within a chain of command which stifles innovation and creativity. Therefore, we end up with the same old patterns that just keep repeating. At best, everyone does their job; at worst, workers go around doing their own thing and trying to get a sense of order from chaos is like herding cats. In either case, no one is accountable.
The moral of the story is that leadership without accountability equals a ‘Leadership Deficit’. It is our responsibility to put this right. Not yours. Not mine. It is our collective responsibility. If we do not deal with this the morale will continue to decline, customers will get dissatisfied, and objectives will not be fulfilled.
We will consider this further in the following topics on intelligent leadership and the applied leadership challenge space.
Hover over each of the links to see which page it links to