Today’s top executives are expected to do everything right, from coming up with solutions to unfathomably complex problems to having the charisma and prescience to rally stakeholders around a perfect vision of the future. But no one leader can be all things to all people. It’s time to end the myth of the complete leader, say the authors. Those at the top must come to understand their weaknesses as well as their strengths. Only by embracing the ways in which they are incomplete can leaders fill in the gaps in their knowledge with others’ skills. The incomplete leader has the confidence and humility to recognize unique talents and perspectives throughout the organization–and to let those qualities shine. The authors’ study of leadership over the past six years has led them to develop a framework of distributed leadership that consists of four capabilities: sensemaking, relating, “visioning,” and inventing. Sensemaking involves understanding and mapping the context in which a company and its people operate. A leader skilled in this area can quickly identify the complexities of a given situation and explain them to others. The second capability, relating, means being able to build trusting relationships with others through inquiring, advocating, and connecting. Visioning, the third capability, means coming up with a compelling image of the future. It is a collaborative process that articulates what the members of an organization want to create. Finally, inventing involves developing new ways to bring that vision to life. Rarely will a single person be skilled in all four areas. That’s why it’s critical that leaders find others who can offset their limitations and complement their strengths. Those who don’t will not only bear the burden of leadership alone but will find themselves at the helm of an unbalanced ship.
Deborah Ancona, Thomas W. Malone, Wanda J. Orlikowski, Peter M. Senge,
In Praise of the Incomplete Leader
Harvard Business Review