Synergy in management

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Marshall Goldsmith writes about Sharing Leadership to Maximize Talent on HBR.org:

Shared leadership involves maximizing all of the human resources in an organization by empowering individuals and giving them an opportunity to take leadership positions in their areas of expertise. With more complex markets increasing the demands on leadership, the job in many cases is simply too large for one individual.

And he gives an example:

For instance, at a company that creates user interfaces for web design, the role of CEO was too extensive for one leader. As a result, it was split into two positions with equal status and complementary skills sets and responsibilities. After splitting the role of CEO, the leaders built on the new team, hiring experts to head up research and development, architecture and design, and sales. Using the shared leadership model gave these leaders the opportunity to focus on the areas in which they are most talented, to hire team leaders, and thus develop a successful, well-rounded and somewhat “flattened” company versus a more hierarchically structured company

I ask you this: isn’t the role of the CEO in most companies too extensive for one leader? The world of business is so complex, how can we expect one “general” at the top to know everything and make wise decisions about everything? The answer is, we can’t. And you should not believe me. I am not a CEO. Believe a CEO, Vineet Nayar, as he writes:

During the day, I try to avoid the traps that are so easy to fall into as a CEO. The most dangerous one is thinking you should know the answers to all questions that arise. This is ridiculous, of course. How can I possibly know the answers to questions that have to do with customers, relationships, technologies, solutions, countries, and offices that I have no direct involvement with? Impossible. But, for centuries, the world’s organizations have been built on the idea that the CEO knows everything. If he does not know, he should act as if he does. Today, everyone knows the CEO doesn’t know much, but assuming that he should (or hoping that he does) is a very hard habit to break. I believe that the CEO should be the Chief Question Asker, not the final provider of answers. And so, especially during the early hours of the day, I ask the following questions of myself:

Ask Bill Gates why he has Steve Ballmer next to him for so long. They each gives something different to the company. As Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton: write in their book Now, Discover Your Strengths:

…[Y]ou will excel only by maximizing your strengths, never by fixing your weaknesses. This is not the same as saying ‘ignore your weakness’. The people we described did not ignore their weakness. Instead, they did something much more effective. They found ways to manage around their weakness, thereby freeing them up to hone their strengths to a sharper point. Each of them did this a little differently. Pam liberated herself by hiring an outside consultant to write the strategic plan. Bill Gates did something similar. He selected a partner, Steve Ballmer, to run the company, allowing him to return to software development and rediscover his strengths’ path…

The idea of The Comparative Advantage has never been so powerful. And it should leave the confines of the world of economics and enter, through the main gate on a red carpet, to the world of management. By definition, synergy is the product of a number of individual parts creating something that is bigger than the sum of the parts. But today’s current management practices try to glorify “one” to lead all the other “ones” to be more than they are. Doesn’t that seem strange to you?

I don’t know if it is inertia, habit, ego, mistaken conventional wisdom or something else the leaves this kind of thinking intact. I am happy that there are some people out there crying out to change this. The world does not need superheroes. The world needs more cooperation that leads to synergy.

Elad

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