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.


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