Distributed Leadership

Image representing Distributed Leadership
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Flow

Distributed Leadership

New models of leadership have been emerging and Nigel Thurlow is at the forefront of research and coaching of these models, and particularly Distributed Leadership. In this ever fast evolving world, we need teams and their leaders to respond and adapt more rapidly than ever. Effective coaching is mandatory to ensure leaders learn new techniques enabling them to lead effectively. Empowerment is only possible in a distributed leadership model.

Leadership begins with the individual, and the model of leadership becomes a collective construct. The concept of distributed leadership entails leadership that extends horizontally, vertically, and every place in-between within an organization.

Distributed Leadership is a hybrid leadership model that covers four levels of analysis within an organization, individual, team, multiteam systems, and executive or organizational levels.

The methods, techniques, and tools for Distributed Leadership include:

  • Psychological Safety
  • Active Listening
  • Leader’s Intent
  • Shared Mental Models
  • Wardley Maps
  • Decision Making
  • Bias Towards Action
  • Collaboration
  • Coaching & Mentoring
  • Complex Facilitation
  • Organizational Design

Self Leadership

Leadership is developed and practiced at the individual level with self-leadership and self-efficacy development techniques.  “Self-leadership is the practice of intentionally influencing your thinking, feeling and actions towards your objective/s” (Bryant and Kazan 2012). Effective self-leadership can also result in greater career success and satisfaction. The ability to lead yourself rests on a foundation of four core practices — purposefulness, mindfulness, reflection and practice.

Shared Leadership

Shared leadership becomes the model of leadership at the team level, with a functional leadership model acting as the oversight of the teams. Shared leadership is defined as “a dynamic, interactive influence process among individuals in groups for which the objective is to lead one another to the achievement of group or organizational goals or both.

Individuals first learn how to lead themselves through self-leadership, then have opportunities to practice their skills in a team environment using the shared leadership model.

Functional Leadership

Functional leadership views the leader-team relationship as opposed to most leadership models that see the leader-follower dyad. The role of a functional leader is called a boundary spanner. Boundary spanners operate in the boundaries between teams and between teams and multiteam systems. Their roles and responsibilities include providing resources, fostering interactions, coordination of activities, and alignment of goals, to name only a few.

Strategic Leadership

Strategic leadership is one theory that views executive leadership within the context of “ambiguity, complexity, and informational overload” (Boal & Hooijberg, 2000, p. 516). More recently, strategic leadership views leadership as a complex adaptive system, providing new perspectives in leadership that include “issues of shared, distributed, collective, relational, dynamic, emergent and adaptive leadership processes” (Uhl-Bien & Marion, 2009, p. 631).

Leaders, in complex adaptive systems, and through strategic leadership, provide leadership of organizations rather than providing leadership in organizations as newer and traditional leadership theories provide (Boal & Schultz, 2007; Dubin, 1979).

Instrumental Leadership

Instrumental leadership fills in the gaps found in the full range leadership model. Beyond leading through influence, reward, and punishment techniques, as with transactional and transformational leadership, researchers felt that leadership must also provide direction for organizations to adapt to their external environments and provide solutions to complex problems (Antonakis & House, 2014).

Instrumental leadership adds to the full range leadership model by also including leaders who are capable of “identify[ing] strategic and tactical goals while monitoring team outcomes and the environment” (Antonakis & House, 2014, p. 747).

Global Leadership

Globalization has changed the landscape of leadership significantly (Gehrke & Claes, 2017) and will continue to do so for some time. An example of this is present in the following description of global leaders’ task: “Global leaders have to connect people across countries and engage them to global team collaboration in order to facilitate complex processes of knowledge sharing across the globe” (Gehrke & Claes, 2017, p. 373).

This description also touches each of the three components of The Flow System: complexity thinking, distributed leadership, and team science. Globalization has changed the leadership landscape to being “less linear and now more non-linear in nature” (Bird & Mendenhall, 2016, p. 119).