Acting As One: The Collective Leadership Approach

To successfully build the nimble, future-oriented and well-managed organizations of tomorrow, effective leadership is essential. Given the pace and magnitude of change today, successful organizations must be able to adapt to a dynamic environment and the winning edge will go to the team and leader who can obtain organizational behavior. The ambition of organizational behavior can be stated simply as the ability to act “As One” – to effectively engage an organization’s people, purpose and productivity. Many of the economic, political and social challenges now confronting our society can only be addressed through effective collective action.

Leadership, now more than ever, requires consistent attention and reevaluation. As companies continue to grow and innovate in the face of an ever-evolving business landscape, management styles must adapt and change alongside. But are leaders up for the challenge?

Finding the Right Leadership Model

The economic recession and increasingly competitive landscape has compelled us to be more inventive, adaptive and resourceful in our approach to business. While previous command-and-control models of management are ideal for select business processes and scenarios – where strong, clear directive leadership is essential – we’ve come to realize it is no longer the sole model of management. Now, effective leaders must embrace the advent of new participatory models.

Through my work at Deloitte around collective leadership, we identified and studied more than 60 organizations that exemplified collective behavior using eight archetypes of leadership. These models present various leadership approaches easily described by leader-follower pairs, such as landlord & tenants, conductor & orchestra and general & soldiers. While organizations’ leadership styles may vary, one thing must remain constant: taking a collective leadership approach will help assure that leadership matches with and permeates through an organization’s culture and business needs.

Managing a New Generation

Along with adapting to a new business landscape, leaders are tasked with effectively managing a very different generation of employees.

A study conducted by Gallup, Mercer and Right Management showed that 80 percent of the millennial generation is planning to look for a new position in 2012 and discontent among workers remains high. Employee dissatisfaction is, in part, due to leader follower mismatches – when an employee desires a collaborative work style and a leader only knows how to direct, a lack of engagement ensues. So how can leaders learn to effectively manage their employees’ needs?

  • Do your research. In a recent survey conducted by Robert Half International and Yahoo! Hotjobs, 35 percent of millennials surveyed said they “want to communicate with their boss several times a day and encourage a collaborative work style.” Learning about the millennial workforce will help leaders better understand employee’s wants and help create a corporate culture that fosters collaboration.
  • Understand employee needs. Employees are happiest when they are in an environment where they feel rewarded and encouraged to make progress. I encourage leaders as well as their direct reports to take the “As One” archetype classifier, a tool that helps leaders understand how they view their organization and how closely it coincides with the views of their employees. To be effective, a leadership style must be developed that is responsive to the needs and desires of the team. Being able to listen and adapt can dramatically increase the ability to obtain the very best from the team.
  • Learn from those around you. Once you’ve completed the archetype classifier, see how other companies incorporated that method of leadership and how it proved successful for them. Reference the more than 60 organization case studies as a guide for any changes you wish to make and ask yourself, “What strategies have they implemented that my staff and I can learn from?”

As business pressures continue to intensify, a collective leadership approach can empower leaders to embrace challenges and engage their workforce to collectively achieve success – helping ensure that they, and their companies, continue to thrive.

This piece was adapted from the original article that ran on, January 24, 2012, “Acting as One: The Collective Leadership Approach.”

James H. Quigley is the former CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and currently a senior partner in its U.S. member firm. He is also co-author of “As One: Individual Action, Collective Power” (2011).