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Why Bother With Distributed Leadership?

I'm an alumni of Boston University Graduate School of Management, so I receive the Alumni magazine Bostonia. To be honest, that doesn't mean I read it faithfully at all. But this issue was different. George Labovitz, a professor in organizational behavior at the school wrote an article recently on his research into the application of alignment to achieve extraordinary results in organizations.

He caught me with the first sentence: "More than thirty years of research has shown that aligned and integrated organizations outperform their nearest competitors in every major financial measure."

He admitted not many organizations do it, but those that utilize it well also realize a significant competitive advantage!

By definition: alignment is the optimal state in which strategy, people, customers, and key processes work in concert to propel growth and profits. When business leaders implement this kind of alignment, the whole organization enjoys greater customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, greater returns for investors. To do this, they de-emphasize hierarchy and distribute authority, information, knowledge, and customer data. As a result, every employee top to bottom, understands the strategy and goals of the business. Consequently, everyone knows how his/her work contributes to it.

There are many ways to measure alignment. But you can only achieve alignment across the board through distributed leadership. Implementing such strategies develops leadership in each unit of your operation and at different levels of your organization. You actually end up empowering employees to act and give them the knowledge about what must be done.

With this kind of clear vision and strong communication, you can allow your team to run with tasks and projects independent of your day-to day management, freeing you for higher level leadership tasks and responsibilities.

With this kind of clear vision and strong communication, you can allow your team to run with tasks and projects independent of your day-to day management, freeing you for higher level leadership tasks and responsibilities.

* Keep people connected 'so they know what is at stake.

* Help people think holistically. You can't expect them to make good decisions if they can't see the big picture.

* Keep people connected to the company vision, mission and goals - raise the horizon of understanding so they are not limited to seeing only department or job specific goals.

* Reward and recognize people for working toward the main goal - not just department goals.

* How you bring this into the review process will drive it home for future behavior.

*Create opportunities for people to interact 'they work better with people they know personally and can empathize with.

* Make the process iterative 'taking action is not a one-time thing.

To answer the question I posed: Why bother? Is it worth it? I think so. These are the same tactics we all need to cultivate in business and organizations, to make the leap from good to great. Excellence is like the family silver, the more you use it and polish it up regularly, the better it looks.

About the author:
Kerri Salls, MBA runs a virtual business school to train, consult and coach small business CEO's and entrepreneurs in 10 key strategies to make more profit in less time. Learn more at or sign up for a free weekly newsletter at

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