Saturday, 21 December 2013

Distributed Leadership:towards a new paradigm.

How well do you distribute your authority or power to subordinates in the organisation to enable them carry out their functions?How well do you empower your employees to take ownership of their decisions?Are you the type of leader that wants to have his way all the time,the commander-in-chief  who does not entertain alternative views or opinions however good or sound?Or is it because these views come from a manager you don't like?Or that he may be a threat to your job or that his views make you look incompetent before top management?

Distributed leadership as a relatively new paradigmatic unit of analysis through which leadership can be looked at in a holistic manner(Gronn,2002),rather than as a sum of individual contributions of managers in the organization has gained currency over the years,even though its practice would tend to be more prevalent in the United Kingdom than else where,particularly in the school system.Admittedly,distributed leadership may find limited application in the business arena,it's value as an approach to reframing the leadership question still remains.Spillane and Diamond,(2007b,p:7), state that there are two aspects of the concept-the leader plus aspect and the practice aspect.Whereas,the leader plus aspect involves the activities of all individuals in the organization all contributing towards the realization of the goals of the business,not because of their roles but as employees,the practice aspect however highlights the role of those actually providing managerial leadership.The seeming dichotomy between the two aspects highlight the fact that a distributed leadership is neither monopolistic nor collectivist.Common features of distributed leadership conceptually can be termed ,"collective"(Denis et al,2001),to " shared leadership"(Pearce&Conger,2003a) ,or " collaborative" (Rosenthal,1998) ,the "co-leadership" of (Heenan&Bennis,1999),and the "emergent leadership" by (Beck,1981).

Despite the conceptual and definitional problems associated with DL,
as a distinct body of knowledge,we must state that DL has come to hold its own in the theory and praxis of leadership theories,relatively new it's corpus can be.It needs arguing that distributed leadership is descriptive rather than heuristic or normative even as its occurrence has lent itself as a unit of analysis in the leadership firmament. The difficulty of approaching DL as an analytical leadership sub-frame or type has drawn comments from writers(Bolden,R;2011;Timperley,H.S,2005;),the earlier one by Gronn,2000;Bass,1985;which outlined the division of ideas of DL into two camps:"those that consider the consequence of individual agency and those that present it as the result of systems design and role structures(Jaques,1989),to (Northouse,2007(traditional trait situational,style and transformational paradigms of leadership,and Uhl-Bien's (2006),collection of social process from which emerges distributed leadership by interactions of multiple actors. Without belaboring the etymology of distributed leadership,the treatment of which is beyond the scope of this enquiry,we focus instead on DL in organizations and not schools or communities from which much of the DL corpus derives.DL therefore is scoped within the organizational design,structure culture as well as cultural diversity of organizations to see how we'll it fits into the general leadership theories. THE SOLE FOUNTAIN OF KNOWLEDGE OR WHAT? Distributed leadership is the point of inflection on the traditional view or notion of leadership:the leader imparting to followers hip.Without doubt DL enjoys a rich lineage of leadership theories EDGEsome of which we had earlier adumbrated,however as Pearce&conger,2006b; stated,distributed leadership came into its own on the very vestige of the rold and the arrival and rise in cross-functional teams,diversity in work place as well as increased complexity of tasks and the availability of information and knowledge.Blumen,(1966),further suggests that the increasing globalization and interdepedence of international business acts as driving factors that expose the underbelly of the individualistic nature of the traditional leadership view of the philosopher-king as the sole fountain of knowledge in the organization.The traditional leadership typology of the sole man will not surfice for the twenty first century corporation.Leadership therefore must be dispersed down and across the corporation.The contest between leadership agency and structural design of the use of power and authority must first be outlined before we proceed to the issue of the life cycle of leadership theories. The basic thrust of our enquiry is two- fold:(1) the search for the best solution to the use of unchecked power in an organization vis a vis the realization or corporate goals and objectives.For unchecked power is abused power. At the core of this thesis is the need to check and rein in corporate greed and the lust for power through " the distribution of authority and use of checks and balances"(Drucker,1958,p:280;Drucker,1958a,pp31-32),quoted by Maciariello& Linkletter,in Drucker's Lost Art of Management,(2011,p.134).It was Drucker's thesis that organizations need to be structured in such a way as to serve as a counter weight to the "darker forces of human nature". The prescription is distributed leadership which involves the restructuring of the offices of the CEO and board of directors.In consonance of this,the move away from the "Agency" construct of distributed leadership to that of design,lies in the fact that personality,trait and style driven leadership types have failed organizations particularly large corporations. The virtue of self-abnegation which lay at the heart of trait theories will not surfice,for the simple reason that it is assumptive of the innate goodness of a leader,that he will at all times have the good of the organization and his followers hip at heart.Self-abnegation does not take into consideration the very nature of man:his foibles,frailties and the temptations and allure of power and authority;the abuse of which they bring to and with positions.Self-abnegation is unbridled idealism,for which designed distributed leadership has come to correct. Although,virtuousness may be inane in man,it cannot be legislated into being.Rather,"virtuousness" can be created in the organization as a mantra for all levels of leadership.It is my argument that "virtuousness" can be learned and dispersed throughout the organization and practiced for perfection(Bennis&Nanus,1985).Drucker(2002)encapsulates the basic thesis of this note when he states that leadership is about "communicating with people,uniting them behind a shared mission and values and mobilizing energies towards accomplishing the mission or purpose of an organization.It is not about "me or I"but rather "us and we"".In exploding the myth of the leadership cult that has "agency" associated with it,Drucker argued that personality and trait driven leadership is not " magnetic personality nor is it one that lends to glib tongue(charisma) or making friends and influencing people but lifting a person' vision to higher heights; the raising of a Preston's performance to a higher standard,the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations".The second basis of our thesis is that leadership has become more necessary than before due the increasing complexity of the business environment as well as complexities of the modern organization,in the face of scarcity of leadership materials.Hamel,G;(2013),for instance is of the view that the real problem is that leaders often come short of standards of leadership.Where for instance do you get a Steve Jobs(innovation),a Lee Kuan Yew(political skills), a Desmond Tutu (emotional intelligence), all rolled up in one person?A near impossibility,I dare say,Yet the complexities of the times has placed demands on the search for such types of leaders.Howbeit,it is not the individuals that are the problem,but more of the organizational structures,which inhibits systems from throwing up leaders in the organization.Hamel opines that the fault is in,"those traditional pyramidal structures that demand too much of too few and not enough of everyone else" SYNDICATED LEADERSHIP AND DISTRIBUTION OF POWER AND AUTHORITY? Distributed leadership theory though a borrower from the school system in the United Kingdom as we earlier indicated,has grown out of the realization that organizations have concentrated too much power and authority at the top of the pyramid and this concentration has had a deleterious effect on performance.Concentrated power and authority leads to slower feedback from the lower rungs.We also have to deal with poor information flow,lack of authority for decision making by those in the frontline of sales and customer relationship management.Over and above all these,we often have to contend with the episodic outcry over "excessive executive compensation and unethical financial transactions"(Maciariello & Linkletter,2011).This brings to the front burner the question of concentrated power and authority and the effect on the organization when abused. THE EGOCENTRIC IDEOLOGUE VERSUS THE INSTITUTIONAL BUILDER:A Case Study Of Ames And Wallmart. Collins&Porras(2011),detail the contrast between the iconic Wallmart and Ames,in the chain stores retail industry.It is a case between an egocentric ideologue and an institutional builder or what the authors call the clock "builder".Whereas Ames leaders preferred to lead from the top,marshaling and dictating changes from above;detailed in a 'bible',Wallmart or Sam Walton,founder of Wallmart preferred diffusing changes through the organization.Walton valued the three concepts of change "change,experimentation,and constant improvement",instituting organizational mechanisms for the implementation of these values.Wallmart encouraged the nurturing of an Environment where change is induced through suggestions on merchandising,for instance,that would reduce costs,or improve sales and marketing productivity from store to store.In other words,each unit of a store was empowered to take decisions and be rewarded or punished for success or failure respectively,under the "A store within a store" concept.That Sam Walton had personal charm,charisma and flamboyance did not detract from his desire and ability to build an enduring American institution that would outlast his memory generations to come.Sam Walton died in 1992,but his organization,the foundation of which he built on the concept of distributed leadership is stronger today than when he left it at death. Ames on the other land,evinces a load story of an organization with concentrated leadership at the top,which continued to flounder under succeeding generations of CEO's,who inherited the hubris of blind pursuit of market share,"raw growth for growth's sake,with the resultant loss of 388 Zayre stores in one fell swoop(Collins&Porras). It is observed that whereas Walton through his philosophy produced a worthy successor in David Glass,who ran with the waltonian vision,the Gilmans brothers had no such succession plan in place,thus leaving Ames in the hands of corporates outsiders without any institutional memory or underlying vision or philosophy;with the attendant disastrous result in Ames' future trajectory under succeeding CEOs. The underlying organizational lesson is in the contrasting philosophies of the two founders:"Wallmart associates will find a way";"our people are relentless"-a belief in people and their ability to lead(theory X);to Ames'"the real answer and the only issue is market share", a belief in the leader as the sole fountain of knowledge and leadership(theory Y). SUMMARY. Distributed leadership or what Hamel calls "syndicated leadership" has as its core function,the creation of more opportunities for more persons in the organization to exercise leadership albeit without the formal authority to do so. As syndicated leadership,DL is about the redistribution of power and the role of the top team,that is,the board of directors.Distributed leadership as a learned function,must start from the point of stated principles under-girding the philosophy,followed by the goals,meaning the importance of producing leadership at all levels of the organization around measurable values of meritocracy,information management and accountability. Decision making must be moved down the ladder to the front lines of marketing,sales and manufacturing;finally embedding it into the organization.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013


"Nothing went according to plan.We were supposed to face a chain-link fance,but came accross a triple strand razor wire.The competition was not supposed to have 'night vision goggles' but they did,so our system was compromised even before we entered the battlefield.Our communications system was supposed to work ,it didnt..." 

The above scenario is a simulation of a real battlefield situation similar to what happens in the real world of business.It is a contest between a well planned strategy,but trumped by a emergent situation;a situation managerial leaders confront time and time again but which they must respond to whether prepared or not.
Variagated scenarios such as these call into question the leadership skills of business managers;calling into action such elements as the case for change,the idea of where the organization is headed and how it will get there.Emergent scenarios have the habit of throwing well crafted strategic plans off their trajectories.It is therefore in the place of leaders to chart a new course based on their developed views of the four critical leadership precepts,namely ideas,values,edge and energy(Cohen&Tichy,"How Leaders develop leaders";HBR,2011)It is our assumption that leaders are supposed to possess the learning about these views,which we now consider below.
IDEAS: Cohen&Tichy argue that leaders must be able to communicate to stakeholders of the business the idea of the market they are serving and how it will be able to deliver value to customers as well as its owners-individuals and corporate.
VALUES: Values are the glue that hold the mission and vision of the organization together.The leader shapes these values,supports their internalization and articulation;and ultimately their operationalization.For instance,Jack Welch of GE,articulated the value of boundarylessness in order to facilitate speed to market of new products,the mgeneration of new product ideas and the sharing of best practices accross the length and breathe of GE.
Andy Grove propagated the values of constructive conflict to enable Intels achieve faster speed to market for its innovations due to the speed with which innovations in Intels market were changing the chips industry.
EDGE: Emergent battlefield situations abstracted in the opening paragraph of this article presents the environment for bold aggressive leadership.It is about making yes or no decisions in the face of imperfect data.Astute leaders when faced with reality make decisions about people,products,business categories,customers,suppliers,and shareholders.The quality of decisions about these important segments of its stakeholders determines whether it has the winning edge or not.
ENERGY: An energized leadership motivates others because it is motivated to impact the organization it leads.An energized leadership must teach its people about how to energize others through face to face contacts and organizational efforts.In 2002,when Sam Palmisano took over IBM as CEO,much had happened to the BIG BLUE as the company is called.Palmisano used the company's intranet to gather ideas about how its numerous employees viewed their employer.Over a three day period,approximately 50,000 employees of Big Blue including the CEO hinself,participated in the discussion jamboree tagged VALUEJAM;posting nearly 10,000 comments(Hemp&Stewart;'Leading Change When Business is Good';HBR,2011)
It was Palmisano's idea to invigorate the work force with a new set of corporate values after IBM was brought back from a near death situation by Lou Gsrstner in the 1990s'.The lesson learnt under the Palmisano leadership is that it is more rewarding through value-based management to energize people in the organization through the ideas of hope and aspiration than through fear of failure.It is about inspiring people to a common purpose based on values that they can help to shape company wide changes as Palmisano did at IBM.
As was discovered subsequently,value-based enabled vision empowers employees to respond more quickly and creatively to never ending streams of strategic challenges that have become the hallmark of the business environment of the 21st century.

CHANGE MANAGEMENT: Some theoritical considerations.

Value-based change management,it is suggested seeks to re-ecaluate,re-invigorate and re-establish the pyschological contract between the organization and its employees.While we acknowledge the contrarian view of change management which highlights the hypothesis that 'hard factors' rather than 'soft factors'(Sirkin,H;et al) should dominate the attention of the  leader during organizational change it is argued that the soft factors materially drive the hard factors of change.The goals of hard factors are given,namely;financial results,shareholder value,stock price valuation,what (Beer & Nohria) call 'economic value' of change management.According to Sirkin,H;et al,change projects fail to get off the ground because companies neglect the hard factors.On the contrary,the literature emphasizes the need for the soft factors to be the focus of attention for the hard factors to achieve the economic value proposition of organizational change.Why?Although soft factors are less seen and measurable empirically by Wall Street,they lie at the core of change management-employee engagement.Beer&Nohria in their article,"Cracking the Code of Change",HBR,2011,theorize that economic value(also known as theory E) or hard factors and organizational capability(theory O) or soft factors constitute the value based axioms of change management.The authors highlight the merits and demerits of both theories,but state conclusively the ideal of deploying one theory or the other depending on the organizational situation warranting change.They also suggest the simultaneous sequencing of the two concepts if the situation augurs.
Personally,I would argue that where change involving the hard factors(economic incentives,drastic layoffs,downsizing,rightsizing or restructuring have high attrition rates employee wise, it often leads to distrust of managerial leaders who pursue these goals to the exclusion of organizational capability(corporate culture development,human capability through individual and organizational learning).It is also argued that the pay off from hard factor driven organizational change efforts tends to be huge given the length of time it takes for the hard effects to wear off even though pay back times may tend to be short.Advisedly,a cautionary note must be sounded that managerial leaders in change situations need to weigh the trade off between the two concepts situating the course of action to take place within the historicity,values and organizational culture of the firm.
COMING FACE TO FACE WITH HARD AND SOFT FACTORS:General Dynamics,Scott Paper and Champion- a case study. To maximise economic value,Williams A Anders was brought in from outside the firm as CEO of General Dynamics in 1991.Over the next three years,Anders shed 71,000 jobs from the GD payroll ;44,000 of which was through the harvesting of seven businesses and the rest 27,000 through direct lay-offs and natural management attrition.Most American change leaders prefer the economic value strategies of theory E;the downside however in human and organizational cost in the long-run is difficult to quantify. SCOTT PAPER: Al Dunlap in 1994 upon resumption immediately chopped off 11,000 employees,selling off several businesses in the process.His constituency was the shareholders and he made no bones about it.Just to prove it,Dunlap nick-named "chain-saw Al" trippled shareholder value.Scott Paper's share value on Wall street rose from $3billion in 1994 to $9billion in 1995.Wall strret applauded his transformation of Scott Paper but employees did.The cost was high. CHAMPION: In Champion we observe a clash of culture in that Andrew Sigler ,CEO of Champion saw transformation through the lens of theory O or soft factors;that of restructuring through the development of corporate culture around the mantra of the CHAMPION WAY;which sought to get employees committed to doing things differently.Teamwork and open communication lie at the core of this strategy.Hewlett-Packard used this strategy in the 1980s when its performance flagged.But through the strategy of theory O,strongly held values drove performance and commitment to the psychological contract between the organization and its employees ;was responsible for HP's strong rebound to profitability.Human cost was minimal however it took longer for the turn around to mature.Champion's turn around took a decade to achieve,no employees were laid off.Examining the two archtypes or theories of change,we are able to discern certain streams:goals,focus,leadership and process and reward;and on these we comment briefly. GOALS: hard factors or theory E,dwells on the hard measurable goals of shareholder value,profitability and stock value.Turn arounds are built to restructure through layoffs and downsizing.Soft factors on the other hand,use the indirect approach of organizational capability;building this to reach the goals of profitability and shareholder value.Whereas hard factors inspired change can be drastic and painful,soft factor driven change is evolutionary and adaptive,according to Meyerson,D.E. FOCUS: E type inspired organizational change confront the hardware of the organization striving to change the structures and systems.These elements are easy to alter as change seeks to improve financial results through changes at the top echelon,down to the bottom.On the other hand,O type inspired changes wring the course of an organization through its software-culture,behaviour and attitude of the workforce. LEADERSHIP: Leadership typology under theory E is exemplified by the setting of corporate goals from the top without the imput of managers and their subordinates who are going to be affected by the restructuring exercise.Such leaders are seen as commanders-in-chief whose authority brooks no challenge or opinion.Al Dunlap and Jack Welch are prototypes. By contrast,theory O involves the participation of all from top to bottom.The democratic ethos is the hallmark of this approach.An adjunct concept under our review is that of distributed leadership.It is about how authority is dispersed in the organization.Does distributed leadership empower employees to perform better?It is argued that given the proclivity for theory E change leaders to authoritarianism,distributed leadership is less likely to be practiced than under theory O leaders who tend to subscribe to democratic means of changing the course of an organization for the better.Theory O change leaders are more likely to enthrone distributed leadership in organizational change situations . REWARD:A financial incentive tied to clear goals achievement lies at the heart of theory E.Stock options remain the most favourable of financial incentives to reward performance and behavioural change.Conversely,the achievement of what i call 'psychic compensation' hallmarks the goals of theory O inspired change management.Financial incentives are used as supplement to gains sharing and merit based reward system.Compensation usually occured at the evolutionary end of the change process as opposed to those of Theory E which is immediate and tied rigidly to performance outcomes.