“Can an organization be too divergent?” asked a middle manager of a large bank me in a development journey? He was taking up the role of Facilitating Adaptability a lot lately.  And the answer seems yes. I’ve seen it in several organizations that promote shared leadership. The top keeps repeating their mantra ‘everybody is leader’, ‘come with new ideas’, ‘it is…
This summer I’ve interviewed 44 leaders in 4 organizations that are empowering their teams in their primary processes*. The organizations come from different sectors: public administration, health care, production and engineering. Which preliminary  lessons do I draw? 1) Self-managing teams are an illusion We have to stop talking about self-managing or autonomous teams.…
“Tell me about your leadership,” I asked the division manager in front of me. “Well, a typical day starts with scanning my environment for relevant information and dispatch it in my organization. I also check on the numbers and answer urgent questions or complaints. I am responsible for 4 units with a total of +/- 50 people. I spend a lot of time being available for them,…
“A shared or distributed leadership model is better suited for guiding companies that are facing more uncertain, more changing, and more complex markets “(p.23) is what is argued in the book ‘Boards that lead. When to take charge, when to partner, and when to stay out of the way from’ (2014). Although it is clear that the authors are not familiar with the shared leadership…
"The entrepreneur's world is becoming everybody's world," is the big idea in the latest book of Joseph Badaracco (2013, p. 7) about responsible leadership. It resonates intuitively with two evolutions in the economic landscape: the wave of start ups and free agents and the transformation of big organisations into clusters of different mini-enterprises. As a consequence: "the venerable…
Paul was a brilliant young engineer when he started in the IT network department of an international utility company. He soon became key in the team of network designers and when the department grew, he was elected team leader. By the age of 33, Paul was network manager with an undisputed reputation of network expertise.  He worked very hard, but his team became frustrated. Paul…
When I ask seasoned managers in the class room about examples of leadership, a lot of them tell stories about getting the job done. "There was indecisiveness in the group and I took the decision." "There was a change needed and I just told them to do it." "We needed to get our sales target and I pushed my people to go the extra mile." This kind of answers frustrate me. They seem…
Sport metaphors easily find their way in leadership talks. And successful sport coaches can fill their days and wallets with keynotes about excellent team performance. Who wouldn’t like to hear how Marc Wilmots drives the Belgian Red Devils to the maximum of their possibilities? How does he forge cohesion out of the often fierce individual interests of players? How does he involve…
Do team leaders make their teams more effective? Are they really needed? Darwin would definitely have said yes: "As we see those animals, whose instinct compels them to live in society and obey a chief are most capable of improvement, so is it with … mankind.” (1909, in Anderson & Brown, 2010, p. 56). His observation was right:  hierarchies are a universal formal or informal…
"It all depends," I answered, when the journalist called me with the question about the ethical behaviour of managers. He had read a news clip about research at Ghent University and wanted the opinion from experts in the field. "Off course," the journalist replied, "but nevertheless, I want an exact position on a scale from 1-untrue to 4- true.  And the arguments. Do you want to…
I’m a fraud, or at least that is how I feel sometimes when I’m driving home after a day of work. It is only a matter of time before they will discover that I’m not up to the job.  I've heard these sentences 5 times over the last 2 weeks. And they all came from people in high places: a CEO from a SME, a managing partner from a consulting agency, a school headmaster, and 2…
We recently did research about nascent entrepreneurship and came to two important counter-intuitive conclusions. 1. Nascent entrepreneurship is not an ‘alone’ thing. We met several nascent entrepreneurs. The successful ones saw entrepreneurship as a process of collaboration. They worked together with fellow entrepreneurs, with customers, with suppliers and grabbed opportunities…