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Published 16 October 2012 05:37, Updated 16 October 2012 05:46
Today is National Boss Day, so what shall we do? Give them a pay rise? Umm no, what about an assistant to help them all day and make their coffee? Ah, already got one.
How about somewhere to park their car today? Or an office for some peace and quiet? I see. Well, we could always take them out for lunch.
The biggest question about National Boss Day however, is not how to help them celebrate it but whether we need bosses at all.
In some organisations, bristling with empowered knowledge workers, bosses are pretty thin on the ground.
In a more modern structure, instead of the usual hierarchy of control you have a leadership team to set directions and articulate a clear vision, self-directed and self-managed teams and then more informal leaders at all levels whose authority comes from their expertise and wisdom rather than a title or an anointing from above.
Director of consultancy The Leadership Circle, Roma Gaster, says we no longer need “bossy bosses”.
We don’t need one person to be in charge or in control, she says, unless we operate in an area where lives are at risk and decisions have to be made very quickly.
“We have moved beyond the Industrial Revolution,” she says.
Today’s business environment is moving at a lightning pace, comparatively speaking, and it is increasingly hard to predict what may be around the corner. Many people’s reflex response to this uncertainty and ambiguity is to try to impose more control.
But this doesn’t work, because the answers to new and complex problems are more likely to come from subject area experts within the organisation than their leaders.
“It is absolutely impossible for one single person today to connect every single dot and have every single answer,” says Gaster.
“Organisational change and cultural change won’t happen without leaders evolving and transforming to deal with complexity.”
Gaster says she thinks of leaders as conductors of an orchestra, where each person under the baton is an exceptional musician in their own right. The conductor’s role is to interpret the music and inspire the players with a vision.
Within that orchestra are individuals who take the lead and mentor others: “We don’t need bosses, we need leaders. You have to have leaders at all levels of an organisation.”
“You need to create an environment where other people can step up.”
Some people, who might be new to a role, may still need a go-to person for direction “but it doesn’t need to be a boss”, she says.