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We’ve come to expect a lot of our leaders…(they) should have the intellectual capacity to make sense of unfathomably complex issues, the imaginative powers to paint a vision of the future that generates everyone’s enthusiasm, the operational know-how to translate strategy into concrete plans, and the interpersonal skills to foster commitment to undertakings that could cost people’s jobs should they fail. Unfortunately, no single person can possibly live up to those standards. Ancona et al.

Complexity has meant micromanagement, together with command and control style of leadership is increasing difficult.  Mega trends associated with the information economy, global markets and the sheer size and scale of many organisations.

Further, the complexity of the value chains (system of upstream suppliers and downstream clients) that they participate in make an all-knowing leader a myth.

Listening to Andrew Green, Technical Director with Racing Point F1 Team, being interviewed on my favourite podcast: Beyond the Grid.  Andrew was speaking about the changes over the last 30 years in Formula 1 teams. Early in his career, it was possible for the technical director (circa 1990), to understand every part of the car and how it interacted with every other part of the car.  Since that time, it has become impossible due to the increasing complexity.  Needing to rely on so many experts, trust is essential that they can do their job.  A technical director now cannot have complete understanding when making decisions, it is too complex.  People used to work many areas of the car, now there is an expert person, who works on a specific component full time. This expert works as part of a group of their part of the car, say the rear suspension.

So, his work became more big picture, working with teams, like the rear suspension team.  Working with each of assembly team, empowering and trusting them to work it out as he reviewed the more ‘global’ picture of the cars performance. The technical director seeking to understand the data and performance of the car, typically of a new design each season, that undergoes constant development during the season to make it faster.

Andrew discussed the further complexity of the new rules for the car being deferred from the beginning of 2021 to 2022.  In addition, a mandated budget cap on teams, coming into force in a similar time frame.

Research at the MIT Leadership Center broke leadership down into four areas.   The first, sensemaking – seeking to understand how changes external to the organization impact it.  Then, being able to express what they see with members and stakeholders.   Secondly – relating, seeking broad ranging counsel of others, always asking the views and opinions of others.  Being able to reciprocate, with what has been garnered and test these views.  Thirdly, visioning – creating inspiring views of the future that captures the hearts and minds of clients and those in the organization to strive towards.  Finally. Inventing – making the vision a reality, crafting the implementation.  Assisting and making sure that those involved are able to come together and get it done.

Photo by Vlad Hilitanu on Unsplash.