Arthur W. Page Society

New Leadership Style – Command and Collaborate – an “AND” Model

In a blog how business leadership for a world of complexity and change was discussed at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, INSEAD business school professor Herminia Ibarra says it is no longer about reinvention but about adding elements to the old model.

Her Harvard Business Review article said a study of prized leadership attributes at Bloomberg had identified what the news empire calls an “and” factor.

Peter Grauer, the Chairman of Bloomberg, talked about the results of a study to identify what leadership competencies were most valued in his company. The top performers had contradictory attributes, what he called the ‘and’ factor:

“They had future vision but were tactically strong; they provided strong guidance but were open to challenge; they relied on extensive networks but were also capable of moving fast (i.e., unilaterally); they were hands-on but also empowering.”

Ibarra said that since the 2008 economic crisis, two versions about leadership have coexisted.

“One, the traditional rhetoric, says that our perpetually shifting environment calls for leadership that is more decisive and crisis-oriented than the slow and consensual style that we might prefer in more munificent times.

“The second, more ‘politically correct’ rhetoric says that the old, command and control model is responsible for many of the problems of the recent years and that only with a more collaborative and inclusive leadership will we get the flexibility, innovation, and new thinking that we need to prosper in a fast-changing and hyper-connected world.

“Now it seems that we have settled on a solution — not ‘either/or,’ but ‘yes/and.’ Like Janus, the Greek god depicted as a man with two heads, each facing in opposite directions, our new leader can and must have it both ways: command and collaborate.”

The theme at Davos this year was “The Great Transformation: Shaping New Models.” But on business leadership, command and collaborate merges the two dominant models into one.

That seems right. Too often, we reinvent how to handle an almost hard-wired dynamic. Any group wants to be lead. Therefore, we need leaders. Leaders must be visible, willing to step out in front and point out the direction.

At the same time, today’s flatter hierarchies – a hard-won democratization of business –  mean we need better listening abilities in order to encourage employees – a group of empowered individuals – to perform better and to handle change.

I believe that the visible traits of a leader – her or his behavior consistent with their espoused values, business goals and “a command and collaborate style” – will determine whether they are effective.

As I have said before, I believe leaders need three forms of intelligence – business smarts and a good IQ, a superior EQ (emotional intelligence) and an acutely developed SQ (societal intelligence) that lets them see and act properly on their company’s purpose and role in society.

The command and collaborate leadership model would clearly fit the IQ, EQ and SQ mould.

For how leaders should live their leadership, my money is still on the 10 rules that Juergen Dormann, then CEO of ABB, shared with employees in the last of his 112 once-a-week letters to all staff that helped steer the company through a deep crisis.

They have both command and collaborate writ large. Along with care.

1. Operate with complete integrity. Keep your word, and do the right thing – even if you are the only one who knows you are doing it.

2. Become an expert in your field. “Expert power” provides one of the major sources of authority because people follow those who “know their stuff.”

3. Tell people what you expect. Use clear language to describe goals, values and expected behaviors. Develop a plan, and act on it. Listen for feedback that may signal the need for a change in tactics, or even in strategy.

4. Mean it when you commit. You’ll inspire people if you show them you accept the risks that commitment brings. You do that by sticking to your path in adversity and solving problems that seem impossible to others.

5. Expect the best. Maintain a self-confident vision of what you want – success – not a negative view of what you don’t want – possible failure. Positive thinking has power, but only if you fuel it with enthusiasm.

6. Care for those you lead. Put their needs at the top of your priority list. If things go wrong, “take” two things – charge and responsibility. And when things go right, share two things – the recognition and the rewards.

7. Put others first. Think of those you lead before yourself. Celebrate their success by giving them as much credit as possible. And share their pain even if it is inconvenient, difficult or costly in time, money or other resources.

8. Do what the word “lead” implies – get out in front. If you’re not willing to do what you ask your people to do, don’t ask them to do it.

9. Play to your own strengths. Learn how to compensate your weaknesses. Let your team members understand how you rely on them, and why. Don’t assume you know everything, or that you are always right.

10. Keep a sense of perspective. Strive for broad-based solutions. Take the time to resolve differences. No one gains if you leave only wreckage in your path.

I have found counseling CEOs in this intimate space on how they best can manifest their right to lead, humbly but with great clarity, to be the most satisfying part of my job as a CCO. What’s your experience?

By Bjorn Edlund
Chairman Europe, Middle East and Africa, Edelman
Retd EVP Communications, Royal Dutch Shell plc

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