Is ‘connected leadership’ the new big thing?


As the world becomes more connected and the speed with which technology facilitates the way we lead, the functional landscape of departments has needed to change.  The old adage of “he who hesitates is lost” has never been more appropriate than today where businesses need to be able to move swiftly and keep making decisions in a rapidly changing environment. It is these conditions that have necessitated the development of Agile Workforces and the principles behind it.

Connected leadership – the next iteration of agile

For businesses to be able to adopt agile methodologies, they need to have leaders that embrace its principles and lead from the front. Trends in leadership come and go. In recent times we have seen the leadership focus shift from being values driven, to agile . What Davidson is seeing now across the public and private sectors, is the emergence of ‘connected leadership’ which, in some ways, is the next iteration of agile leadership.

According to Simon Heyward, chief executive of Cirrus Leadership Consultancy, connected leadership is “the shared process of leadership that really makes organisations successful in a sustainable way”. He explains this further –

“It is not given from above, as there is no top in a network. To know the work culture, connected leaders marinate in it. This cannot be done while trying to control the culture. Organizational and network resilience is strengthened when leaders let go of control. Connected leaders use compassion, empathy, and trust to influence networked people. Transparency eliminates the need for most traditional management control mechanisms.”

Hayward summarises the key factors of Connected Leadership into five areas:

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Although Hayward does place importance on trust, for him, this is a fundamental part of the ‘devolve decision making’ area which is arguably the crucial part of being a connected leader. By devolving decision making, employees become empowered. This is particularly impactful in service based organisations where “colleagues don’t have to refer all decisions up a chain and wait for a response. This allows leaders at all levels to engage their people in relevant discussions which lead to the best decisions they can make”.

For this style to work, businesses need to attract and grow people with high emotional intelligence (EQ), empathy and most importantly trust.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article Connect, then lead Cuddy, Kohut and Neffinger, highlighted the importance of trust in leaders and from them. Whilst the article took a scientific approach to assessing whether it’s better to be loved or feared, the trust in leadership is crucial to successful leadership, it notes:

“ In management settings, trust increases information sharing, openness, fluidity, and cooperation. If coworkers can be trusted to do the right thing and live up to their commitments, planning, coordination, and execution are much easier. Trust also facilitates the exchange and acceptance of ideas—it allows people to hear others’ message—and boosts the quantity and quality of the ideas that are produced within an organisation. Most important, trust provides the opportunity to change people’s attitudes and beliefs, not just their outward behavior. That’s the sweet spot when it comes to influence and the ability to get people to fully accept your message”.

In taking Hayward’s approach to connected leadership, departments can respond quickly to stakeholder demands; employees will be empowered to make decisions and engaged. Resulting in consistency of leadership and the department will benefit by being agile and outcomes focused.

As we go into 2017, the importance of connected leadership is a key to strong culture and driving successful outcomes within teams in the public sector. When you return to your roles after the Christmas/ New Year break, a question for you to consider is ‘how connected is your leadership?’.

Sharon Ardley is general manager Victoria for Davidson HR Consulting.

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