By Maria Collar

Just as the empire was once divided, the c-suite seems to be conflicted over the “forces” of powers to be. More than a decade ago, after the unveiling of “The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century” by Thomas Friedman, leaders everywhere were challenged by a flatter world and, ever since, have been trying to find innovative solutions to the issues of globalization and connectivity in the workplace. As most approaches out there in the market today were not developed in the 21st century nor were based upon the social norms of our times, needs of a flatter world have remain widely unanswered.

In today’s volatile markets, where competencies of exploration are greatly valuable, traditional command-and-control hierarchies have found great impediment attempting to affect change within environments due to inability to continuously assess for new transparencies and learn from perceived environmental shifts. Performance, in a 21st century world, solely depends on the unique ability to detect new market needs, response to environmental changes, develop new competencies, and modify the business process to stay ahead of demand.

As the world around us becomes increasingly diverse, our corporate environment is urged to transform into a more complex, interconnected, and dynamic living organism able to actively interact with its environment. Hence, leaders today must be able to cross diverse boundaries, either be within or between entities, in order to create sustainable solutions for the complex problems of tomorrow. Accordingly, there has been a movement away from traditional command-and-control principles and towards shared responsibility and mutual accountability. This new movement does not equate lack of discipline or progress, on the contrary, instills a vigorous sense of joint vision deeply rooted under the strategic direction.

Springing around the world, as a different type of leadership, collective leadership has emerged ready to inspire transformation, participation, and collaboration, as well as convey passionate commitment. Offering equal partnership, collective leadership enables openness, transparency, collaboration, accountability, and empowerment at all levels. More than anything, it awakens visionary hope with a purposefully forward-thinking of embracing talent, at all levels, as unique partners under a join strategic vision. This type of leadership approach urges leaders to move away from command-and-control and adopt a facilitating style with the primary responsibility of developing talent, at all levels, to achieve the strategic direction. In addition, it transmits a robust focused attitude that is outcome-driven and seeks to produce positive results within a multigenerational and multicultural world.

An entity’s ability to capitalize under collective leadership principles depends solely on the ability to gain greater commitment to the overall strategic goal. As distinct from command-and-control principles, which negatively impacts the business process by disfranchising talent from the ultimate consumer and detracts quality from services, collective leadership brings forth a deeper commitment to the strategic goal. Rather than having one individual assume all aspects of the leadership role, under collective leadership multiple individuals, within the team, serve as leaders in both formal and informal. Chiefly, it instills a potent connection between talent and strategic direction by weaving together the various corporate cultural communities under a join vision.

Generally speaking, collective leadership is an inherently inclusive approach to leadership which transcends cross-cultural boundaries to gain join commitment, shared responsibility, and mutual accountability. Under collective leadership, an entity shifts focus toward responding the question: How can our talented employees gain collective action to the business process in order to effectively execute strategy goals and objectives?

Even though forces impinging upon our 21st century workplace are as diverse and dynamic as the current workforce, five principles have emerged as valuable for equipping talent to effectively gaining collective action under the collective leadership model. Foster these principles and your entity will be able to unleash the hidden potential of the talent within.

Five principles for engendering a collective leadership approach:

1.Create a system of “win-win” agreements as core process. This leadership initiative takes a step towards the new era of “win-win” situations built upon mutual cooperation through a variety of structures, including labor-management committees and training programs for alternative dispute resolution. More than anything, it reduces grievances while providing a clear passage onto equal partnership under a common direction.

2.Engage talent under shared responsibility and mutual accountability. As talent within an entity want more or less the same things from and for an entity, leaders should always bet on the added value of its talented employees and, accordingly, provide the freedom to use their unique skills. When leaders focus on creating conditions of empowerment, corporate culture is cultivated into a dynamic high performing and producing ecosystem able to effectively achieve the strategic goal and rapidly adjust with demand.

3.Align strategic direction to talent. Generally speaking, greater the level of alignment or congruence between guiding principles and dominant culture the more effective the entity will be. When guiding principles remain consistent with attitudes, values, and expectations of an entity, they are, thereof, able to direct the collective thoughts, habits, feelings and patterns of behaviors adapted by the overall group.

4.Provide different opportunities for professional development. All individuals have an enormous reservoir of intellectual capacity, creativity, aptitude, and indispensable skills lying largely untapped within. To unleash this untapped potential one must create the right conditions and provide different opportunities in which to explore and develop talent to full potential. Needless to say, one cannot expect every individual to blossom to their full potential, and some will require more abundant harvesting than others, however if the right environment is created over time all talent will transform into loyal brand ambassadors willing to be the most sustainable advantage.

5.Adopt a style which supports talent at all levels. Leaders that create and sustain an environment in which talent, at all levels, collaborate to achieve a common goal enable strategic direction. If employees are the entities only sustainable competitive advantage, and if command-and-control model fails to tap into intrinsic motivation, then leaders must be able to create and maintain an empowering environment in which talent, at all levels, can thrive.

In the long run, environmental changes can create internal problems by increasing the likelihood of failures in communication, coordination, and control. Consequently, understanding how the world requires greater commitment from all members to modify the business process allows for faster flow of information which, in terms, enables to easily detect, interpret, and translate needs from the market into new behavioral responses. Entities that failed to successfully integrate talent into the overall strategic direction will be unable to maintain a dynamic presence in today’s volatile marketplace.