Tip #4 Master your changing leadership role
In an excellent book on leadership and change in the face of complexity (Complex Adaptive Leadership by Nick Obolensky), the author notes that in most organizations of today there’s a charade taking place. The pretense is that those in senior leadership positions know all there is to know about the work of the organization and, therefore, have all of the answers to the problems the organization faces.
The followers, on the other hand, know little about what’s going on in the organization and diligently wait for instructions from the senior leadership so they can accomplish their work. In fact, both the leaders and the followers understand the absurdity of this farce, but continue to perpetuate it. The reality suggests that those closest to the work, the followers have most of the answers to the organization’s problems, but are loathe to grab the reigns for fear of losing their jobs. And the senior managers are hesitant to admit that they don’t have all the answers for the resulting embarrassment. Obolensky suggests that this needs to stop. Leaders need to encourage regular feedback from followers, and followers need to actively and constructively critique senior leaders’ decisions that fly in the face of logic and their experience. Managers of complex projects are in the same position as senior leadership. Because of the size and complexity of these projects, it’s impossible for the project manager to have expertise in many of the technical and regulatory areas involved in the project. So the project manager needs to set boundaries within which the project team members can operate, delegate responsibilities for areas of the project in which this work is being done to those team members who are appropriately knowledgeable and experienced, and “devolve” (Obolensky’s term) from the project work, providing active oversight and becoming more involved only as needed. This will produce the working space that project team members need to creatively resolve issues that regularly arise on their projects.