Why Top-down Leadership Doesn’t Work Anymore

Like everything else that evolves over time, a new type of leadership is emerging. And many of the old rules just don’t apply anymore. A whole lot of leadership comes from “leading from the center.” It’s called collaborative leadership. But building collaborative leadership doesn’t just happen. Especially in organizations that traditionally lead from the top down. Just what IS collaborative leadership and how does it happen, exactly?

Collaborative leadership refers to the way leaders in today’s world are able to enroll talented people to do what they are meant to do – release their intellectual and other assets in service to the greater good, the goals, the purpose of the organization.

This kind of leadership focuses on enrolling people in creating a joint destiny instilling a deep sense of purpose over personal agendas. It requires leaders walk the “tightrope” of energizing the journey without exercising too much top-down control. It also means developing a group climate that fosters openness and responsibility. And all that takes a different mindset and skills.

You can learn more about how to cultivate collaborative leadership skills in my book, “Collaborative Leadership in Action.”

For a quick spin, How to tell if you have leadership potential gives a great explanation of what new leaders are and what they do with spot-on examples from Penelope Trunk.

She explains why traditional top-down leadership doesn’t work in this era. How new leaders are facilitators not dictators, focusing on helping people be their best selves and leading from the middle. How, contrary to what you might think, new leaders are not out in front and come to leadership in a roundabout way. How they are not groundbreakers. How they lead online.

As you can imagine, this is quite a paradigm shift. One that requires help to shift course in organizations that have traditionally lead from the top down.

I recently worked with an organization that used to be comfortable as long as their leaders got results in their respective areas. Their people were trying to do what they saw as the right thing.

But there was a disconnect.

We conducted an engagement survey, and feedback was, “we don’t feel comfortable speaking out with senior management.” And the view from the top was, “why don’t our leaders think more strategically? Why don’t they make decisions without our intervention?”

So we helped the senior team understand and collaborate more with the next level, we helped the next level understand their own leadership, and we provided venues that gave them more practice at enterprise empowerment. By building more collaborative and authentic leadership practices, the organization empowered those who could really make things happen. And good things are starting to happen for them.

Want to learn more about how this organization is evolving from a top-down leadership style into a more effective collaborative leadership style? Contact us.

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