We have all heard speeches and read articles about leadership. But in this new age of business, where going above and beyond is the basic first step and we need more than ourselves to succeed, leadership itself needs to evolve. Welcome to Meta Leadership.
Meta leadership is about strategically linking organizations or programs within organizations. We must allow information to flow not just within our own agencies, but through systems and communities to create linkages to foster best practices. It is about going higher and transcending norms. It is about more than simply your subordinate associates.
This is the traditional leadership model of working with those under your command and is the base of operations for most departments. The key factor in Lead Down is the support of your team. In this Meta factor, leaders build trust with their people through empowerment and prudent risk taking. Leading down is not dictatorial or micromanagement — it is about devotion to your staff, providing them with the tools to perform their jobs and advance, and asking what you can do better as a leader. As Kim Scott says, the relationships you have with your team are at the center of being a great boss. It is also a way for you to show your leadership skills to the higher-level leaders in your organization — as they will see how your people look at you which will influence their provision of authority to you.
If you want to show yourself as a true Meta leader within your organization, you cannot just lead down. As they say, you need to dress for the job you want. In this Meta factor, you need to use your expertise within the organization to inform and educate — both in good times and bad — your bosses. Think of Leading Up as being a strong business partner. As you meet your commitments and deliver results, you will develop these relationships with those above you on the organizational chart to effectively influence them. However, you must not see Leading Up as the time to be a sycophant or yes person. This is the factor through which you garner respect through a demand for clear expectations and the determination of preferred communication styles. When maximizing this factor, others within the organization will take notice.
In today’s high functioning organizations, the walls between departments have crumbled down and the “stay in your lane” mentality is long gone. In this Meta factor, leaders increase departmental effectiveness through horizontal connectivity. How do we all work better together for the benefit of our organization? We need to be transparent across these connections to define the value of collaboration. There cannot be any competitive slant, but you must plan for resistance and leaders attempting to “defend” their departmental goals and needs. You head these issues off at the pass by creating rewards for shared solutions and outcomes.
Can we do this alone? Do we have the resources? These are the questions we have to ask as organizational leaders. Sometimes it makes sense to forge ahead with our current teams and or to grow our teams — adding more horses to the barn. However, partnerships with other agencies can be a faster way to maximize talents. Find other organizations whose strengths are your weaknesses and vice versa. This way you can create capacity through external expertise by coordinating the talents of people across organizations to build a larger or deeper pool of services. When leading beyond, you must pivot by practicing influence over authority. In this Meta factor, you must work with leaders of other agencies to define motivations and end games for each — to create a new system with mutually beneficial outcomes.
You as the Meta Leader
Utilize these tools in order to find a wide range of solutions by creating a high level of connection and interdependence — within and outside of your organization. You must understand that you are balancing the needs of sometimes emotional stakeholders who have different priorities. Meta leaders find ways that each person’s differences can complement by focusing on the overall mission. By building a connected system and explaining their ‘role in the whole,’ you can ensure service will overcome self-interest. You, as the Meta Leader, will move people from all about me to strategic alignment — and in the process will bring more resources to the table due to focus on larger picture and aligned mutual interests.