Tuesday, June 18, 2024

High-Speed Innovation With Distributed Leadership

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It is uncommon, rather impossible, that one person has all the skills and talent to create success. Chances of success often increase with diverse perspectives and expertise of many. But the selection of person is also crucial.

If you look carefully at the current organisational mix, you will see an exciting emerging trend. Most companies now have at least three different generations in their employee mix. It is interesting because each of these generations looks at management principles and leadership quite differently.

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So, the question is, with such a wide mix of talent, ideologies, thinking, and operating styles, how do you ensure high-speed innovation?

I have rarely seen an employee that wants to be told what to do. Instead, most of them want leaders to trust them for being capable of doing the right thing. And, from that perspective, most of the management principles from the past are not applicable anymore. When we think of a progressive organisation and innovation, these factors need to be accounted for.

The challenge

Volatility in the environment and ecosystem at various levels is increasing. Uncertainties are mounting and are increasingly becoming routine in business environments.

A volatile environment needs decisiveness. It needs a clear vision and curiosity to deal with it. Having a broad knowledge base can be helpful.

Dealing with uncertainty demands diversity and courage in teams. You need people bringing different perspectives and showing strong bias for action.

Now the challenge is, for most of the businesses, at least the ones I have seen, decision-making points are the major bottlenecks. They impede agility. It means they have an adverse impact in a volatile and uncertain environment.

If your business fails to remove these bottlenecks quickly and efficiently, survival could be a challenge soon. Pandemic has shown everyone a small demo of what can happen and how the smallest bottleneck can create dire situations.

Incumbent models of leadership emphasize compliance and resource distribution. They are mostly directive and hierarchical. However, with the new multi-generational employee-mix, it needs an overhaul.

A new perspective

It is uncommon, rather impossible, that one person has all the skills and talent to create success. Chances of success often increase with diverse perspectives and expertise of many.

That is where my proposed new leadership model will come in handy—the distributed leadership, that is, democratised decision-making at a cross-functional level.

You can explore this further by creating a team of decision-makers, the second line of leadership, where you can accept decisions by a minimum quorum.

Interestingly, blockchain uses a similar logic for autonomously approving transactions. It will reduce your workload. Additionally, it will also improve your speed of operation without increasing the risk.

Distributed leadership fundamentally differs from its traditional counterpart by focusing on collaboration and resource sharing versus resource allocation or distribution.

It is interactive and peer-to-peer versus being siloed. Therefore, it can offer adequate checks and balances for decision-making.

The future

Futuristic organisations, for the next decade or more, will have a multi-generational workforce. To make this employee mix work well, you must provide the right infrastructure, establish appropriate systems, and create the right environment. It will enable people to do their best.

Although it sounds like general advice every man and his dog seem to offer these days, the key is in its provenance.


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  1. This is a really fascinating subject. Most organisations have very flat structures and siloed areas of responsibility. Working in a distributed way will take some getting used to but could definitely benefit a lot of projects.


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