Leadership based on hierarchy has had its day
Leadership based on hierarchy and a strict separation of roles and functions has had its day. In a world that is changing rapidly and in many areas, the mechanism of command & control is increasingly being found to be inadequate. That is the finding of business expert and psychologist Ber Damen in the recently published book Het Berenschot Leiderschapsboek (The Berenschot Book of Leadership).
He predicts that leadership will no longer be about a specific position or defined task with the corresponding status, but rather about a social interaction process that can be carried out by various people together simultaneously. In the book he discusses various forms of leadership.
In older days, the rake model (management from the top down) was the suitable answer to issues such as scaling-up, efficiency and coordination, but now that model is insufficient. In the area of innovation, agility and entrepreneurism for example, companies and organisation can longer work with this model. "Increasingly it's about social innovation, working smarter and in a manner that is more enjoyable, autonomy, room for people's own initiative and taking responsibility," Damen explains. "Working only with a command & control mechanism is no longer enough."
The day of the all-knowing leaders at the top of the rake is past, Damen believes. In the layers between the shop floor and leadership, information is being shared more frequently and rapidly. As a result, people ‘at the bottom' are collecting more information more quickly than their managers at the top of the company. In that context Damen speaks of ‘a learned helplessness in the leadership of many companies in which people no longer have any idea of what is happening at the bottom'. Instead of the rake model, he argues for a broad, fanned out and shared pancake model.
Within excelling companies and organisations, leadership has in fact become a matter that concerns everyone. How leadership is shared and who is in charge or put in charge is determined by the specific expertise, competence and capabilities of the people in the team. This determines how the available talent is utilised. Damen warns of an excessive degree of faith in what he calls the manipulability of leadership and considers not uniformity, but unicity to be the decisive factor. He feels that because of this, the leadership in many companies and organisations continues to be based on antiquated mechanisms and technologies, often based on the second industrial revolution.
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