Leading in an externally focused world

So thinking about collaboration led me onto a favourite shift of mine which is the need to be externally focused rather than internally. I’m not just talking about ‘customer centricity’ – but about a perspective of the organisation as a set of external relationships within a network rather than focusing on the entity as the node. The picture below indicates some of these systemic relationships and their consequences

External governance

And when we look at traditional leadership structures, this systemic perspective and hence the web of relationships doesn’t readily map across – the CEO tends to be only role instinctively viewed as systemic.  Which is one reason why frequently, for example in innovation, you will see that the CEO sponsorship is a critical success factor.  And yet is that really the answer? To make the CEO the owner of all of the above?

Surely not! It seems to me that there are at least two potential routes (which are not mutually exclusive!) for the future – a redefinition of leadership roles to become more systemic and more externally focused – some organisations CDO’s (Chief Data Officer) look like a move in this direction – although they may not be consciously articulated that way. Or (and?) leadership evolves into something more of a collective activity – and one which may not sit at the ‘top’ of the organisation but much closer to the ‘coal face’ or the ecosystem it inhabits.

That kind of devolved management is increasingly being discussed – but to date I’ve seen it analysed from the OD point of view – how it relates to the internal organisation. Thinking it through from the wider net of relationships opens up the possibility of not just engaging but involving those outside the organisation as well as a much more radical perspective of what devolved management might cover

Author: macinn2013

Comments in my blog represent my personal views not those of my current or previous employers but are inevitably influenced by my working life, past and present colleagues, friends and family - such is life!

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