“Hierarchical authority is much more effective at securing compliance than it is in fostering genuine commitment.” —Peter Senge
Senge and his team have identified three types of leadership in organizations.
- Local level — to experiment
- Executives — to support local level & model behaviour
- Networkers — to make connections between people
Leadership today is all about making the network more resilient. It is helping the network make better decisions. Executives can ensure that local leaders have the time and space they need to experiment. Executives can appoint and support networkers or community managers. Then they can focus on setting the example, modelling and not shaping their enterprise.
“network leadership is about working together to make sure that people in the network are connected in a way that encourages flows of resources, information and support to every part of the network” —June Holley
This is a cooperative model, where executives set the example and exert influence through reputation and not positional power. This is a model that promotes diverse thinking and therefore drives innovation.
Executives cannot really direct any organization, unless it is very small, because the nature of organizations ensures that those at the top do not understand what is really going on, as Tim Harford notes in — Adapt: Why success always starts with failure:
“There is a limit to how much honest feedback most leaders really want to hear; and because we know this, most of us sugar-coat our opinions whenever we speak to a powerful person. In a deep hierarchy, that process is repeated many times, until the truth is utterly concealed inside a thick layer of sweet-talk.”
All that any executive can directly control is compliance, whereas a transparent organizational structure lets everyone ensure compliance. “Transparency makes ambition, a healthy spirit of competitiveness, and group or peer pressure, possible.” —Niels Pflaeging.
Learning and experimentation have to be let loose. The path for executives is clear, simple, and aligns with the wirearchy principle — “a dynamic two-way flow of power and authority based on knowledge, trust, credibility and a focus on results, enabled by interconnected people and technology.”
Three pillars for executives in leadership positions are:
- Set an example
- Distribute power and authority
- Enable connectors and community builders