It's lonely (and unproductive) at the top | Collective Next

It’s lonely (and unproductive) at the top

February, 2024

What are the ways that a leader can steer an organization? The traditional, old fashioned model is pretty simple, on paper: the head of a company comes up with a brilliant idea and tells their inner circle of senior managers to bring that idea to life. Those senior managers then come up with a plan and instruct their subordinates to get to work.

In last month’s newsletter, we began to explore the problems inherent in this organizational philosophy. This top-down, traditional approach to decision making can not only leave the rest of the organization disconnected from the brilliant strategy that our leader has come up with—it also separates the leader themself from the rest of the team they purport to lead. And despite all of the ways that businesses have evolved over the past century, this style of strategic management is more common—and pernicious—than you might think.

Finding the balance

Finding the right balance as a leader is hard. Every leader wants to push their organization forward while staying in touch with the effort their team expends. But how do you do it? How do you maintain that elusive balance between directing, delegating, and facilitating?

At CN, we believe that the key to achieving this balance is to bring your team along with you for the ride. It requires vulnerability, ambiguity, and is a lot harder to pull off than just telling everyone what to do. But the organizations that embrace this approach end up being more flexible, more dynamic, and more connected: all of which leads to better outcomes.

So, what are some ways to get started? Below are a few initiatives for Senior Leaders to consider that will help foster a more balanced, more effective approach to organizational leadership.

Diagnostic Program

Start with an assessment of where your organization is and where the opportunities lie. By getting a comprehensive sense of where focus and attention should be directed, you can then begin to gather and curate the ideas already percolating within your organization. Think of this effort as a level setting, finding the ground upon which you’ll achieve the balance you’re looking for.

Senior Leadership Visioning and Development

Once you have a good “diagnosis” of your organization’s current state, the next step is to determine how your leadership team will move forward together. Identify the culture and core values for your leaders, as a team. Align on development goals and how to achieve them.

Alignment and Mobilization Session

The next step is figuring out how to put what you’ve discovered into action. Design and begin executing “the plan” and, most importantly, determine how you’ll engage the rest of the organization in its implementation. This isn’t the end of the work, by any means, but rather the beginning of realizing all of the brilliant ideas your senior leaders have come up with.

What’s next?

None of these initiatives are easy or simple to implement. But they shouldn’t be. This is part of the hard, rewarding work that leading a cohesive, forward-thinking organization requires. Fortunately, you don’t have to figure out on your own.

Immersive Web Experiences / Alexion Culture Transformation Story

This external facing website is designed to showcase the culture transformation that Alexion underwent since 2017. The site utilizes an innovative scroll-based animation design, and also featured a cross-team effort that included creative, production, and digital teams.