The role of leaders at the top is changing. They are no longer the “boss” as they used to be, the person in charge of an organization with a clear reporting line to their board of directors. Their formal authority and power has declined in this age of interdependency. This affects their leadership in three fundamental ways.
Their leadership has become more trans-organizational.
Trans-organizational leadership is the process of influencing networks in such a way that the organization can flourish, but also the other organizations in the network. Leaders at the top need to be capable to embed their organization in the right kind of eco-system, e.g. an ecology of innovation (Hazy & Uhl-Bien, 2013). This demands the capacity to bridge and thus generating trust, to frame and thus developing sharedness and to capacitate and thus creating structure and efficiency (Saz-Carranza and Ospina, 2011). The organizational leadership task goes beyond reporting to the board and mere representing or championing towards other stakeholders.
Their leadership has become more trans-formational.
At a recent workshop for CEO’s, we did a quick poll about the need for their organizations to change. The need was high and unanimous. Transformation, disruption, innovation, entrepreneurship… no leader at the top escapes this responsibility. This calls for transformational leadership (Bass & Riggio, 2006). This leadership style is well researched and is the most effective style to motivate and develop people and teams for change and development. Key behaviors are: being a role model, motivate inspiringly, stimulate/challenge and show consideration.
Their leadership has become more trans-itional and trans-cultural.
Organizations need executive catalysts, leaders that create the right organizational conditions for flexibility, innovation, execution (Akrivou & Bradbury-Hang 2011). As catalyst, they have a complex identity. They have multiple selves that function as micro-cosmos for their organization (Ashforth et al., 2008) and an over-arching self-concept that allows them to connect and team up, without feeling the need to resolve conflict, reduce tensions, assimilate. They function permanently in a transit-zone, between cultures as e.g. Ish Ait Hamou so beautifully demonstrates in this talk, moving in and out and integrating through dance & story telling.
The idea of trans-leaders is not a leadership theory. It’s just food for thought. And I’m well aware that the word ‘trans’ has also the specific meaning of transgender. I’m not an expert in the male/female leadership discussions, but it’s safe to say that also respecting and exploiting this source of diversity in organizations is part of the current ‘leader at the top’ challenge.