flat modern art of leader inverted in mirror effect


"Leadership is a social process that enables individuals to work together to achieve results they could never achieve working as individuals.”

(Center for Creative Leadership)
What is the Leadership Culture you want to create?

Like individuals' vertical development, teams also develop greater complexity of interacting through identifiable phases. Development of teams and groups follows a similar pattern to the development of individuals.

And this development is also not an intellectual exercise. It is an experiential process that intact teams need to do together, as they work on the strategic outcomes of the business; this is not something that people can practice and roleplay. It is something they have to do together and for real.

Getting to know one another well, risking disclosure and being seen, risking being trustworthy, developing trust, confronting unresolved conflicts, setting a social contract, asking for what they want and how they want to be treated, creating strategic relationships, discussing each other's performance, having the difficult conversations, ...

All of these things are necessary if the team dynamic is to mature and high performance is to be possible

Leadership, and its unfortunately much maligned and unwanted corollary, followership, are part of Q3/ Culture. There is a common belief that ‘leadership’ is a set of traits, behaviours or skills possessed by an individual - that would put it in Q2, because it would be about an individual.

This misconception has created a huge consulting, coaching and professional development industry; it also accounts for the mostly unimpressive leadership outcomes those programs deliver.

“Instead, leadership is a social process that enables individuals to work together to achieve results they could never achieve working as individuals.” (Center for Creative Leadership); leadership’s presence is signalled by the presence of three organisational outcomes:

"The Achilles´ heel of most orgs today:
Their general inability to utilise internally available human intelligence."

a simple diagram of an organization as a hierarchy

Passive, compliance norms; “just tell me what you want me to do”; stability and precision valued; people in authority are responsible, all others follow and wait for instructions; hierarchically from above, people appear dependent or avoidant, from below, those same people appear oppositional or command and control oriented.

a simple diagram of an organization as a small hub and spoke style network in a modern flat style

Discussion, debate, mutual influence, compromise, negotiation among self-responsible people; competition among multiple ‘better ways’ to do things; ‘organisational politics’; leadership emerges out of an individual’s knowledge and expertise; typically the environment created is competitive; compromise is the usual outcome; people feel “I’m on my own”

a flat modern design of a three-dimensional spherical network of nodes representing a modern organization

Collaborative exploration leads to the emergence of new perspectives; agility in innovation and sustainable enterprise; leading is a collective and collaborative activity, not a characteristic or process of an individual; people seek and coordinate perspectives; they collectively decide who is the right person to make a decision depending on the demands of the situation.


A widespread agreement throughout the team or business on their overall goals, aims, and purpose:

  • In groups with strong direction: Members have a shared understanding of what group success looks like and agree on what they’re aiming to accomplish.
  • In groups with weak direction: Members are uncertain about what they should accomplish together, or they feel pulled in different directions by competing goals

Purposeful organisation and coordination of knowledge and work in a team; agreement that “this is how we will work together and exchange knowledge and complete tasks”; creation of a common language:

  • In groups with strong alignment: Members with different tasks, roles, or sets of expertise coordinate their work.
  • In groups with weak alignment: Members work more in isolation, unclear about how their tasks fit into the larger work of the group and are in danger of working at cross-purposes, duplicating efforts, or having important work fall through the cracks.

A trusting and honest culture; creating a willingness of members of a team to subsume their own interests and benefits within those of the whole team:

  • In groups with strong commitment: Members feel responsible for the success and well-being of the group, and they know that other group members feel the same. They trust each other and will stick with the group through difficult times.
  • In groups with weak commitment: Members put their own interests ahead of the group’s interests and contribute to the group only when it’s easy to do so or when they have something to gain.

So 'Leadership' is not about the charisma of an individual, his or her skills, behaviour, knowledge or experience. 'Leadership' (which necessarily includes 'followership') is an emergent property of the collective, of a group or team of people. It is how they relate together, how the organise themselves, how they make meaning together as they pursue a common purpose.