Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Model of Shared Leadership

This is a great article from Jeff Thoren's newsletter from Gifted Leaders. Thanks Jeff. I had heard about this and didn't know where to get more information on it and there it was in your last newsletter.

Today's leaders are seeking to adopt new ways of thinking and to apply new models of organization in the workplace. Sometimes new insights are found in unexpected places. One symphony orchestra -- New York City-based Orpheus Chamber Orchestra -- has become a model for a new kind of loose and flexible organization.

By removing the position of conductor from the organization, Orpheus has unleashed an incredible amount of leadership from its members. The highly acclaimed orchestra has achieved a level of excellence and success by explicitly honoring the ideals of democracy, personal involvement, and mutual respect.

"In a conducted orchestra, you play a more passive role. Not only is less expected of you, but less is expected from you. I don’t see that people in regular orchestras are emotionally involved in the same way. Everybody plays well, but the level of emotional involvement isn’t there."
- Orpheus cellist Eric Bartlett

Here's this month's feature ...

The Conductor-less Orchestra

By Harvey Seifter

Leader to Leader, No. 21, Summer 2001

Highlights from the article:

In most orchestras, the conductor not only decides what music will be played but how it will be played as well. There is little room for the opinions or suggestions of the musicians themselves. As a result, orchestral musicians are a notoriously unhappy class of employees.

By contrast, Orpheus has developed a unique system of collaborative leadership that invites every member of the orchestra to participate in a variety of formal and informal leadership positions. The system is extremely flexible -- musicians freely move in an out of positions of leadership -- allowing the orchestra to quickly adapt to changing conditions.

With no conductor to act as a filter to the what and the why behind the group's decisions, the members of Orpheus are uncommonly energized and responsive to the needs of the organization and to the desires of its leaders. Turnover is extremely low and employee loyalty is extremely high. The result is a better product, increased customer satisfaction, and a healthier bottom line.

While the Orpheus approach to collaborative leadership is not without its difficulties -- getting 27 talented and strong-willed people to agree to anything can often be a very real challenge -- it has served the group well over more than three decades. Here are eight guiding principles:

Put power in the hands of the people doing the work. Orpheus musicians actively participate in deciding who will lead, how a piece of music will be played, who will be invited to join their ranks, and who will represent them within management.

Encourage individual responsibility for product and quality.
Each member of the orchestra feels a very real and personal responsibility for the group's outcomes.

Create clarity of roles. The organization's members have clear roles and all roles are communicated widely throughout the organization.

Foster horizontal teamwork. Orpheus operates with Peter Drucker’s words in mind, "No knowledge ranks higher than another; each is judged by its contribution to the common task rather than by any inherent superiority or inferiority. Therefore, the modern organization cannot be an organization of boss and subordinate. It must be organized as a team."

Share and rotate leadership. Fixing leadership in positions rather than people wastes the leadership potential within employees whose positions are not part of the organization's formal leadership hierarchy. Orpheus brings out the strengths and talents of each individual member of the group.

Learn to listen, learn to talk. The members of Orpheus know the power of communication, and it is the lifeblood of the organization. Two-way communication is expected, fostered, and reinforced almost constantly.

Seek consensus (and build creative systems that favor consensus). This requires a high level of participation and trust among the members of an organization. Everyone must be willing to listen to the views of others and to be flexible and willing to compromise on their own positions. In Orpheus, the more important the decision to the organization, the more people are involved in it.

Dedicate passionately to your mission.
Passion is the spark that can make an ordinary organization great -- and a great organization truly exceptional. In Orpheus, all the members of the orchestra are focused on one thing: producing the very best product possible.

For the full text article, go to ...

No comments: