The largest and most successful businesses of the past have traditionally been driven by autocratic and powerful leaders who managed a highly structured organization of subordinates.
In my role as a business mentor and adviser, I now always look for culture and recommend team roles that nurture collaboration rather than contention, communities rather than silos, and transparent communication at all levels.
If you are interested in advancing your leadership, and achieving more success in this new internet age, here are some principles to guide your focus:
1. Foster the trend to flat teams versus vertical organizations.
With the multiple technologies of team videos, smartphones, email, and the pervasive Internet facilitating total communication, there is no need for the delay and information loss of multiple hierarchy levels in business. Horizontal teams are more effective as well as satisfying.
2. Let collaborative leadership mitigate individual biases.
Traditional command leadership allowed individual biases and ego to reduce team engagement and miss market changes and new competitors. Create a collaborative team agenda for every meeting, and make sure everyone contributes. I suggest a greater focus on relationships and listening.
3. Reward innovation rather than "follow-the-process."
Modern companies like Amazon credit much of their growth and success to rewarding change innovations, including failures. Jeff Bezos believes that if you double the number of innovation experiments you do per year, you're going to double your agility, and thus outpace your competitors.
4. Discourage internal team competition and silos.
It is up to you as a leader to define and communicate the company shared values that pull a team together and allow them to disagree without fighting. This starts with instituting a hiring and training program that emphasizes collaboration and rewards individual expression and empowerment.
5. Capitalize on diversity to anticipate and meet change.
Team members from different backgrounds and cultures will see the need for business change earlier and make better decisions collaboratively, and you can learn new things from each of them. In this age of worldwide markets, you need all the help you can get to attract loyal customers.
6. Simplify the feedback-sharing process for you and them.
Feedback is so critical for any business leader, both in how to give and receive it. Make feedback positive and informal, and not just about pointing out mistakes. You need to be a mentor and coach regularly, rather than follow a formal appraisal process that everyone dreads.
7. Look for opportunities to highlight individual strengths.
We all have strengths and weaknesses, and we can't work collaboratively if we don't know how to capitalize on the strengths around us. Also, team members become unmotivated if their unique set of skills isn't being used. Don't be hesitant to highlight the strengths and contributions of peers.
8. Be a role model for leadership integrity and trust.
You will find team members only collaborate with people they trust. If they see you as the competition or the enemy, you will never get winning results. I recommend that you start by getting to know every key team member in your realm on a personal level and find a common basis for sharing.
9. Change team roles frequently to broaden perspectives.
Don't let your team members get tunnel vision by only seeing a tiny portion of the whole business. Let them learn from new challenges, which will also keep your business agile and the team collaborative in the face of constant change. You will find improved morale and satisfaction all around as well.
10. Show respect in dealing with team member changes.
Gone are the days when you could treat all employees as inanimate "assets." Make sure each is a good cultural fit for your company and provide individual consideration for their needs in time off and training. Make changes for a better job fit often and quickly, but with empathy and a personal touch.
In my experience, more and more startups, as well as mature organizations, are relying on the team collaboration model for leadership, and are seeing more growth, agility, and long-term success.
No matter where you are in your current organization, I recommend that you practice these principles to achieve an advantage in your current role, and prepare you for the future.