Genuine authority is not a question of rank, but of exemplary behavior, for leadership is based more on imitation than on subordination. We could save ourselves a lot of resistance, struggle and suffering in our daily life in organizations and families if we ourselves authentically represented the change we want to see in our environment. Only those who can lead themselves so sincerely can lead others through their example.
No matter what you might think of Scrum, the Scrum Guide beautifully describes three aspects of leadership in the context of agile product development. At the center of value creation is the development team, which works autonomously and self-organizing. As the “CEO” of the product, the Product Owner leads the product and thus gives the autonomy a common vision and direction. And finally there is the Scrum Master, who serves the people and helps the product owner, the development team and the rest of the organization to work together effectively. A traditional manager is not described there, because his different tasks are distributed among these roles.
Building on the success of the Oxygen project, where Google has been exploring the characteristics of good leadership, in 2012 they launched Project Aristotle, using the same data-driven methodology to unravel the mystery of effective teams. The name says it all, because Aristotle is known, among other things, for his saying that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. And at the same time this also describes the essence of the results of this investigation: a group of superstars does not necessarily become an effective team.
Many companies appear to have forgotten the very purpose of their existence. Most employees therefore answer the question about the purpose of their employer with the apparently correct answer: “To make profit”. But profit is never an end in itself; rather, it is like the air we breathe to survive and yet our lives thankfully do not consist only of breathing. Profit is therefore only a necessary condition for the survival of the organization and the yardstick for properly fulfilling an important purpose for the customer.
In the transition from the industrial age to the age of knowledge work, the relationship between employees and their organization changes fundamentally. Dependent workers increasingly become independent knowledge workers who carry their means of production in their heads. The organization is therefore more dependent on knowledge workers than vice versa. In this transition, the network replaces the hierarchy as the leading organizational principle. Leadership is therefore no longer based on subordination and obedience, but now aims at the self-leadership of the people entrusted to it.