The pros and cons of decentralized leadership
Q: Has the recent success of the Tea Party come because of, or in spite of, the movement's lack of a formal leadership structure? Along with Wikipedia, open-source software and organizations like moveon.org, is this another example of the power of distributed leadership?
Which organizations are better: centralized or decentralized? It depends.
Decentralized leadership approaches work well when an organization needs innovation and creative solutions from knowledgeable people who are familiar with the environment and know their role within the organization. The less hierarchical culture allows a free flow of ideas, yet people's experience and professionalism keep chaos from swamping the task.
Decentralized approaches do not work well with inexperienced people who are unclear about their jobs and in stressful situations where clear direction is needed for concise action. Although it is often disparaged, centralized leadership approaches do have advantages in this situation. When effectively implemented, a centralized leader can quickly get people organized, motivated and on task because communication is predominantly directed from the top down. A centralized leadership strategy is often essential to success in high-stake, fast-paced, time-critical emergencies in unforgiving environments. Yet there are trade-offs.
Some of the negative aspects of centralized leadership are that innovation can be squelched and the loss of the leader--either due to death or incompetence--can often be cataclysmic. In the absence of the strong, clear leadership the organization has come to depend upon, people may not be able to function effectively, do not know who to follow and become conflicted about self-authorization.
Although a decentralized strategy might be working effectively for the Tea Party at this early stage in the group's development, when the environment changes, as it no doubt will, the party will need to be able to adjust its leadership strategy accordingly or risk failure.
September 22, 2010; 12:36 PM ET
Category: Accomplishing Goals , Followership , Organizational Culture , Political leadership Save & Share:
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Posted by: tigre1 | September 26, 2010 8:34 PM
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