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Why You Need Distributed Leadership

Why You Need Distributed Leadership

Dan McCarthy | Great Leadership

June 16, 2010

2. The right employees.

To quote Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility”. Not everybody is ready to assume great responsibility. There are some that would prefer to be told what to do. Then again, laying a responsibility on an employee that isn’t ready is another recipe for disaster.

Again, it goes back to hiring profiles, assessment, and development. Look for employees that have a track record of seeking our new and bigger responsibilities, that can handle ambiguity, and with strong problem solving and decision making skills.

In order to get someone ready to take on really big decisions, a leader has to start grooming them by giving them little decisions that gradually get bigger. Using Situational Leadership can help you determine when it’s time to provide a heavy dose of direction and when it’s time to let go.

3. The right organizational structure and systems.

A relatively flat, decentralized organizational structure, where there are fewer management layers and managers have broad spans of control promote distributed leadership. Increasing a manager’s number of direct reports makes it harder to micromanage them.

Organizations that practice distributed leadership build processes that embed leadership into the system – rather than allowing only a few at the top to lead.

4. Clear direction and values.

Without a rock-solid vision, mission, goals, and values, distributed leadership can turn into distributed anarchy and chaos. Managers at companies like Johnson & Johnson, Google, Southwest Airlines, and Wal-Mart have lots of local autonomy but make decisions within a very clear set of boundaries.

While the term “distributed leadership” may be relatively new addition to the corporate buzz-word dictionary, it seems that there may be valuable lessons from what we’ve already learned how to do: good old-fashioned empowerment and delegation.

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