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No more top-down leadership


No more top-down leadership

There’s even more continuing evidence of the need to give up top-down authority and control.  In a December 2009 Harvard business review article, researchers Amor, Hentrich and Hlupic suggests that executives desire to tighten control in the interests of greater efficiency or confronting challenges or crisis is not necessarily in the best interests of the company.  Their research provided firm evidence that leaders who actually do exhibit high levels of control, clamp down on decision-making and reserve authority to themselves actually do their organizations a great disservice.

Their research suggests additional evidence that companies which engage their workers stimulate innovation through the abdication and dissemination of control and through use of nonhierarchical teams will actually benefit productivity and effectiveness in such organizations.  In two companies they studied, CSC Germany and ANADIGICS, they found these organizations did the opposite of higher levels of control — they relaxed control and generated to employees the freedom to make decisions and to take actions based what they saw as appropriate to their work situation.  The result; much broader and deeper success for these companies.

This change in management strategy encouraged the development of a knowledge culture and increasing value of peer group interaction and peer coaching at every level of the organization.  This stronger more relational approach to management and decision-making actually resulted in marked improvement in productivity and a significant rise in revenue.  By more strongly connecting those at the point of service to market realities, and to their own decision-making, these organizations created a context for a deeper involvement and engagement of worker stakeholders.  The result: a real benefit to workers satisfaction, productivity, and revenue impact.

Here again, overwhelming evidence is provided to suggest the emergence of an increasingly desperate need to link knowledge workers at the point of service with the strategic and tactical capacity necessary to assure the success of the system.  The question isn’t whether knowledge workers should be allowed to participate more in decisions that affect the organization simply because it is a nice thing to do.  Increasing, evidence suggests that in knowledge-driven organizations the viability of the system, the success of achieving its strategic priorities, and high levels of engagement and ownership converge to create the conditions necessary to sustainability and to advancing the interests of the enterprise.

It seems clear that at a minimum, leaders need to rethink the positional, hierarchical, line and box approach to roles, relationships, decisions, and actions in knowledge-intensive systems.  In the interests of advancing the viability of the system, creating the foundations for sustainability, and improving the conditions that advance the quality of life of the stakeholders, all converge to create viable conditions for the sustainability of the life of the enterprise and its continuing and dynamic growth.  How long will it take before this understanding becomes the floor of leadership practice instead of still considered the ceiling of leadership thinking?

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