The perspectives offered in this Judgement Call piece in the Financial Times August 21st. are representative of two positions that are both interesting, but also too simple for today’s complex environment. It sets up an overly dichotomous argument. The point made by Julian Birkinshaw that the best bosses see the world through the eyes of their employees is very valid, particularly in an business environment marked by uncertainty and ambiguity. In today’s environment what is known as relational leadership is critical as noted by researchers such as Mary Uhl-Bien, Sonia Ospina, and Valerie Gauther among others. This is not top down leadership but leadership that connects networks and encourages diverse opinions. Relational leadership is critical to avoiding the collective myopia that top down leadership can lead to. Under conditions of uncertainty experience is a double edge sword.
Karen Moloney’s point that bosses need to articulate their values is also critical as long as those values promote diverse perspectives and the decision being “forced” is foundational for the values the organization stands for. In short, relational or complexity leadership is necessary in today’s environment. So too is ensuring underlying values are maintained. Leadership is emergent in between the various actors in the organization, not embedded in a single person.