Re-inventing Leadership 3: Leadership Must Become Decentralized.

Apache leads the way in web server hosting.‚  In their June 2007 survey, Netcraft estimates that over fifty percent of all web sites run on apache web servers.‚  It was as high as seventy percent in 2006.‚  In other words, the software that powers the majority of the web is not a corporate development, but a product of collaboration and choice.‚  While a core set of code exists for apache, developers and systems engineers can customize the exact implementation of the apache web server.‚  In addition, while a foundation oversees the project, no one really controls the code; code can be added to or taken away.‚ ‚  Apache represents the movement into decentralized leadership.‚  The development of open source software is representative of the change and transformation of leadership.

Leadership has for years been centralized.‚  Some of this is a result of the education gap that existed early in the previous century.‚  Leadership in the organization was likely the most educated within it.‚  With knowledge and information comes power.‚  This gap appears to have created positional leadership.‚  The leader was the one in charge, not the one who was most influential.‚  However, the broad base of knowledge and information available to people in an organization through the internet has closed the gap.‚  Instead of positional leaders being the most knowledgeable, people inside the organization have access to the same knowledge base and are often more knowledgeable than those within leadership positions.

The measures of success affect how an organization is led.‚  The church seems to have associated success with the same measurables an industry uses.‚  The church finds success in large churches, budgets, number of people baptized, and books sold.‚  While all of those are indicators of activity, they are not effective measures of success.

One result of using numerical indicators is that the church, and those searching for a community to worship with gravitate toward those who can draw a crowd, who have a charismatic personality, or who pastor a large church. The humble, faithful servant who has been obedient to his calling while eschewing the greener grass is not recognized.‚  Is a pastor successful when he labors faithfully for years in a small, rural community where he is literally the pastor to the community?‚  In the current method of measuring success, he would not be successful. To the people whose name he knows, however, he is incredibly successful.

To maintain the measurables necessary to keep up with the image and reputation, leadership can be tempted to objectify people and ministries.‚  The member is not valued through relationship but is seen as a tool for achieving the leader’s goals, objectives, and plans. Achieving those centralized goals and objectives determines how valuable a person is to the organization.‚  Failure to meet those goals and objectives results in removal or transfer.‚  Those goals and objectives come from visions and strategic plans determined by the executive leadership within the organization.‚  One benefit of decentralized leadership is that when the huddles help determine the what and how a shared vision often emerges.‚  When people take ownership for the direction and leadership of the organization, leaders can facilitate and resource them in addition to building healthy relationships.

Centralized leadership has abated creativity and attempted to increase control. Moving to a decentralized system of leadership will expand the creativity of the organization as it frees people from the constraints of control that hamper centralized systems.

These open systems do not rely on a police force.‚  On one hand, there is the freedom for a person to do what he wants; on the other, a person has added responsibility because there is no police maintaining law and order.‚  Everyone becomes a guardian.‚  A person becomes responsible for his own welfare and that of those around him.‚  In open systems, the concept of a “neighbor” takes on more meaning.‚  Open systems rely on relationships rather than rules.‚  In order to have decentralized leadership, trust and relationship are at a premium.

The reality of an open system is that within it there will be a few oddities; that will be normal.‚  However, it will also allow people to unleash a world of creativity and innovation.‚  It appears to be chaos, and to those who struggle when structure is absent it will feel chaotic.‚  It is not, however, anarchy.
Rules, laws, structure and centralization develop when an organization loses its ability to trust those within it.‚  It is then that leadership develops into coercive leadership.‚ ‚  Because a small group of people have become bad apples, the whole organization goes on lockdown.‚  Creativity is stifled.

When a system is decentralized, creativity has the ability to flourish and have issues resolved by the whole organization rather than relying on the creativity and abilities of one person. Consider a toy manufacturer who sells teddy bears. The manager tells them that profits were down twenty percent because the arms kept falling off the bears.‚  The proper information given to the employees could allow those employees to look at their processes and quality control and then determine what changes could be made to keep the arms from falling off.‚  The ability to decentralize the problem-solving may not only lead to a correction of the problem of the arms falling off, but a more effective production process that could save money for the company.‚  The ability to allow others to develop the solution inspires trust, creativity, and increased moral with the organization as a whole.

David has been a systems thinker most of his life. He has started three businesses as well as designed and developed systems and processes in existing organizations. He has a Doctorate in Leadership and has also done additional post-graduate work in communications.

He has also pastored 3 churches and loves to think about, write about and podcast about scripture, theology, and leadership.

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