Companies of all kinds are shaking up the usual way of managing their organizations. Zappos, which has adopted a flattened style of management known as holacracy, is probably the most recent talked-about example. But if you're toying with the idea of breaking down traditional hierarchy, consider taking inspiration from another, rather unexpected source: New York City's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
MoMA is altering the way it collects and shows art, mingling traditional forms of higher art--paintings, sculpture--with objects and products from other disciplines and categories. And its employees are collaborating like they never have before.
"While curatorial activities used to be highly segregated by department, with paintings and sculpture considered the most important, the museum has gradually been upending that traditional hierarchy, organizing exhibitions in a more fluid fashion across disciplinary lines and redefining its practice of showing art from a linear historical perspective," reports Robin Pogrebindec in the New York Times.
MoMA's move away from the powers traditionally vested in hierarchies and departmental fiefdoms comes at a time when businesses, too, are embracing the idea that leadership can--and should--come from anyone in the organization, irrespective of what department they work in or where they are in the organization's hierarchy. Flat organizations and systems like holacracy define employees by a role, rather than a title. Collaborative technologies lack Slack can help prevent the hoarding or siloing of information based on an employee's position or department.
All of which combines to create a business landscape where the definition of leadership is shifting from what you could call the Steve Jobs model--the veneration of a singular individual who is founder and CEO--to a definition that has almost nothing to do with your name or station.
"We start with a fundamental premise: that leadership is an action," says Jeff Klein, executive director of the Wharton Leadership Program. "Leadership can be contributed by any member of a team or an organization. It's that set of actions that will align, excite, or propel a group toward a common goal. It's not the sole responsibility nor the sole right of those in positions that carry authority."
In other words, you're a leader if you're good at spurring successful collaborations. Simple as that. At MoMA, this is now happening in a way it never did before. For instance, it used to be that curators had to fill out formal loan forms, if they wanted to use something that belonged to another department, reports the Times. That's how siloed things were. But the figurative walls have come down. Curators in different departments now brainstorm with each other to discuss coming exhibitions.
Ann Temkin, MoMA's chief curator of painting and sculpture, explained to the Times how the collaborative approach helped to create the current Jackson Pollock exhibit. It was organized by the print curator, even though it also features paintings. By combining the prints--which were often Pollock's early drafts--with the paintings, MoMA believes it's providing a better idea of the artist's ideas and intentions. "That could not have happened 20 years ago," she told the Times, "here or anywhere else."