Fostering Emergent Leadership: Bite Sized Insights on #IndiaHRChat

One of the skills that Google looks for before hiring is “Emergent Leadership”. In a connected, volatile, networked and virtual world of work, it is crucial for us to step out of traditional definitions of leadership and look at leadership as a role and not as a title.

I was honored to be invited to share my insights on #IndiaHRChat on the topic “Emergent Leadership”. My fellow guest was Jesse Lyn Stoner, who is a business leader, executive coach and co-author with Ken Blanchard of International best seller “Full Steam Ahead: Unleash the Power of Vision”.

It was such a great learning experience with fantastic ideas from the vibrant #IndiaHRChat community. Special thanks to host Tanvi Gautam for the invitation and kudos to her for providing us a platform to share and learn collaboratively.

Here are the insights I shared.

What is emergent leadership?

Leadership beyond confines of formal authority that manifests itself in specific situations and group dynamics.

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Blossoming of a leader from group who rises to situation, steps in, leads for a certain time and then goes back to normal.

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It is a situational (and often temporary) act of leadership beyond title, experience or authority.

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Emergent Leadership is central to success of groups, teams and orgs. Given a right environment, everyone can lead.

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Leadership is not just a position. It’s a role people play based on problem at hand, skills, attitude and initiative.

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Strong leadership qualities can emerge in any of us. Sometimes, out of our will. Other times, out of circumstances.

How does emergent leadership change the paradigm of traditional leadership?

Emergent Leadership dissolves the boundary between traditional top-down leaders and others.

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It changes the pattern of traditional leadership from centralized authority to distributed one.

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The role of a leader-by-authority: create a network of relationships, empower, inspire, facilitate, catalyze & serve.

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Traditional leaders have a responsibility to build an ecosystem and then identify emergent leadership qualities.

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Traditional leadership is important, only when it fosters a culture (in team/in org) where people step up to lead.

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Traditional leaders have to give up the notion of power, for power is with those who do stuff.

Why is emergent leadership important in today’s organizations?

In a networked/connected/virtual world, emergent leadership is critical to success of organizations.

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Because best ideas often come from those who ‘do’ stuff.

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Noticing patterns of emergent leadership can provide important clues to build your leadership pipeline.

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A team cannot afford to rely on ideas/insights of only one person (traditional leader), if they wish to succeed.

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A culture of emergent leadership allows people to position their skills where they are most useful.

How do you spot emergent leadership and what are the behaviors to look for?

Emergent leadership is about group influence – Social skills is #1 trait to look for.

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Emergent leaders are defined by their level of ownership, cognitive abilities, initiative, drive and commitment.

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Their ability to collaborate with others. Humility to step back when someone else steps up to lead.

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“Responsible ego” – they know they don’t have to come up with winning idea in all situations. wapo.st/1doGwZX

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Constant quest to learn, being open to new ideas, ability to contribute to ideas from others.

How can organizations promote and encourage emergent leadership?

Orgs have to propagate the concept of leadership as a role and not as a position or title.

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Establish a shared vision and create a robust structure that supports emergent leadership.

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Carefully hiring people who are: motivated, collaborative, people centric with a leadership instinct.

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Create smaller autonomous teams with flat organization to eliminate unnecessary layers of mgmt that stifle productivity.

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Set precedence by recognizing and rewarding emergent leadership behaviors.

How can a ‘leader by authority’ support and encourage emergent leadership?

Define outcomes clearly and clarify values. Beyond that, eliminate roadblocks and support without directing the workflow.

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Maintain healthy levels of communication in the team to create a matrix of relationships that supports emerging ideas.

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Emergent Leadership requires a culture of trust, a constant feedback loop and healthy two way communication.

What is the role of HR in supporting and encouraging emergent leadership?

HR is the driver of the cultural shift required to foster emergent leadership.

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HR sets the precedence on the need to support emergent leadership within the org.

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HR plays a pivotal role in changing perceptions about traditional leadership and raising awareness about new ways to lead.

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Also Read:

Bite Sized Insights on Personal Branding #IndiaHRChat

Coaching Culture: The Art and Science of Success #IndiaHRChat

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Cohesive Leadership Team: Whole Before the Part

After reading my last post about cohesive leadership team, some one asked me, “What exactly is cohesion?” I went on to share the following example.

In a recent game of cricket, the top batsmen failed to make an impact and got out in quick succession. Clearly, the team was facing the risk of scoring the lowest total ever. Then, the captain walks in with a resolve clearly visible on his face. He takes time to settle in the game before steering the team to a defendable total score.

In a team, cohesion is about people having a sense of collective responsibility. If one team member fails, the other alters his/her game to cover up such that the net impact on the end result is minimal. That is cohesion. In a cohesive team, the end goal or outcome assumes higher importance than an individual.

In a cohesive team, no team member can really say, “I have done my part and it was working. This failure is not because of me.”

In an organizational setting, senior leaders have a common and over-arching goal. Tough and tricky decisions have to be made keeping this goal in perspective. Trust has to be established between the team members. Conflicts have to be resolved and commitment has to be generated. Things have to be done, and done in the right direction.

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Bottom line: Cohesion in a team (specially senior leadership team in an organization) is important for success. It is important in a game of cricket and it is important in families. In a system, parts represent the whole. If the whole is fragmented, parts will start moving in different and often, opposite directions.

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Also Read: Cohesive Leadership Team: A Few Questions

Cohesive Leadership Team: A Few Questions

In software world, cohesion is referred to as a degree to which modules belong to each other. If modules have little in common, performs varied activities based on unrelated sets of data, it is a low cohesion software which is difficult to maintain and understand.

Drawing the same analogy for an organization’s leadership, cohesion is the degree to which senior leaders belong to each other and to the collective goal as a team. If senior leadership team is not cohesive, organization runs in different directions and becomes difficult to just sustain, forget about growing further. Building an aligned and cohesive team of leaders is a crucial first step towards building a culture of excellence.

This is a significant challenge, and the one that requires a great deal of introspection. Following questions may help:

1. Are all senior leaders, department heads and second level leaders absolutely convinced and clear about the collective goal?

2. Do they know the organizational value system and do they demonstrate those values through their actions, words and behavior?

3. Have they participated in setting up those goals? Has goal-setting been a collaborative activity?

4. Do they take decisions for greater good of the organization or to simply protect their own departmental fortress?

5. Are they willing and open to disagree with an objective to find optimal solution or they disagree for purely political reasons? Do they avoid conflict by passively agreeing to critical decisions?

6. Do they (really) trust each other? Do they complement or compete with each other?

7. Are they accountable? Are they completely aware of their objective accountability (results, targets etc) and behavioral accountability (attitude, communication, behavior etc)?

8. Do they only focus on results without caring about how those results were achieved?

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Join in the conversation: Have you ever been a part of a cohesive leadership team? What lessons would you like to share? What questions would you add to the list above?

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