How to Solve the Leadership Paradox

Updated: Mar 30

“I wonder at what point humans have decided that it is more effective and efficient to put all problems, solutions and decisions in the hands of a single leader?”

Evert Bleijenberg
Evert Bleijenberg MBA

It is a well-hidden fact: One in four managers suffer a ‘burn-out’ sooner or later in their career. This makes ‘burn-outs’ the number one occupational health hazard and the profession of manager, more dangerous than that of a race car driver. And this clearly is not the only problem. Because in modern organisations the position of any leader requires almost ‘God-like’ capabilities. And we’ve not seen or heard of anybody with such skills for more that 2000 years.

The Leadership Paradox
SWARM Organisation

Human organisations seem to crave leadership and to some extent this is logical. It just happens that some people are more proficient in certain knowledge fields than others, and thus should such people lead the way with their expertise. However, the assumption that there are people that are expert in any field, have solutions for any issue while simultaneously have an indestructible moral compass, is extremely flawed. Not to mention the required social skills and the obvious fact that any forced decision creates bottlenecks and conflicts. But what can we do about it?

The key words are: Autonomy, self-responsibility, role based leadership and supportive feedback. In some of his many papers, Sir Francis Galton (the inventor of Eugenics) revealed the phenomenon of “The Wisdom of the Crowd”, or the evident observation that 1000 people just know more than 1. It turns out that if we give people the autonomy and self-responsibility to choose the best available solution, at the given time and with the current available information and resources, they mostly do just that. And it also turns out that they find this solution very quickly, with broad consensus and without corruptive influences. Further, leadership and authority should not be tied to a single function or individual but to a purpose defined role. Such role can be fulfilled by anyone with the right motivation, skills and availability. And the role is never permanent. And last but not least, we must change our attitude towards failure and welcome it as a learning opportunity. This requires a change in mindset from corrective action to supportive feedback.

Self-organising collectives address events at the point of occurrence without management involvement. This makes them more adaptive, efficient and future proof.

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