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Moving From Traditional Leadership To Collaborative Leadership

by Chris Denney with Martin Shervington


Leadership is evolving into something different and moving away from traditional models that were for most a hierarchy. This is especially true for governmental organizations like defence, as well as corporate.


Leadership Today

Today’s leadership is more inclusive, and more about looking for ideas from the community as opposed to a manager saying “this is what I think”.

In order to get to this kind of collaboration, many changes happened. One of them is the raise of collaboration as a new way of managing people.

Today, there is more agreement amongst the team as opposed to just one person leading the way and others following them. Leadership is changing into something that gives value to everyone’s thoughts and everyone’s experiences as opposed to valuing just one person because they hold a particular role.

One of the many things that changed this is evolution in culture. Over the last 20 years, there’s more understanding of the way people think and behave.

More than that, a number of large organizations influenced leadership and pushed for this change. Google, for example, is a company that changed everything within their management ways and their corporate structure. The rigid hierarchy way is not working anymore, and this is why leadership is changing.


The Relationship Between Technology And Cultural Shift In Organizations

People are able to communicate now more than in any other era. This ability to communicate and reach out to each other so quickly and efficiently means that collaborative thinking is much easier.

However, with every change, there are challenges that individuals face, and this is especially true for organizations that try to move from traditional leadership to the collaborative one. this is not only true for individuals, but also for organizations.

For an individual who is really into hierarchy and traditional leadership, moving into the collaborative style will be about giving up control a little, listening to other people, and considering their subordinates’ opinions.

It will be about letting go of black and white thinking such as “this is the only way to do that, if we don’t follow my way, we will fail”. That would be challenging for someone who prefers leadership by hierarchy, because it’s about taking on other people’s ideas and understanding them.

For organizations, it’s a little bit more difficult. An organization has a culture and is a collection of people and their ideals. So, for any organization built on the traditional model of leadership, the cultural shift can be challenging.

The people from the bottom that have those new ways of thinking will slowly work their way up, so they can start to change the culture.

Change In The Army And Defence Force

The people inside the organization are starting to evolve and change. Those who have these new ways of thinking are starting to get into positions where they can influence the organization and make change happen.

However, because defence force is a public organization, society applies more pressure from the outside for it to change. If you look at bullying for example, society is moving a lot faster than some of these government organizations.  They look back and go “that’s not an okay way to behave, you need to change”.  Since the hierarchy of the defence force and army reports to people in office and politics, they can’t afford to have bad press. If they do it means they won’t be voted in the next time. There’s pressure to change coming from that higher aspect as well.


Communication In The Army And Defence Force

The truth is, technology got away from organizations like the defence force over the last 5 to 10 years. It took a period of time for the organization to try and catch up and get that change under management.

The army and the defence force do it a lot better now, however, there is definitely still an information management issue that needs to be addressed.

There’s this older generation who doesn’t really like technology. Then there’s this new generation who’s all about internet and social media presence. Those two completely different cultures are smashing together in the army and defence force, trying to find where the safe line is.

The defence force is now using communication tools such as emails and instant messaging, which made its way into defence force 4 to 6 years ago.  Formal writing in the defence force is starting to disappear because it’s easier to send an email or an instant message.

It’s a change in behavior, and this makes it really easy for the chain of command to be broken.  A commander can send an instant message to a soldier without having to go through a number of processes. Interactions happening between different ranks are now more likely, and as a result, a lot of traditions inside the defence force are starting to disappear.


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