How Distributed Leadership Can Speed Up Your Company's Decision-Making
As a leader in your organization you may feel the unenviable weight and pressure around decision making. The pressure to ensure your decisions are informed and correct is high, and you may find this resulting in a slowing down of time to decision (TTD for those in the know).
The good news is that you’re likely not always the best person to make every decision, and be instilling skills of good decision-making throughout your organization you will reduce a personal burden while empowering your team.
Nowadays, distributed leadership has replaced one central decision-maker with a system that allows employees at all company levels to contribute their ideas and offer suggestions about how to move forward—all without waiting for permission from above.
Distributed leadership can speed up your company's decision-making process, but it can also improve the quality of your company's products and services, resulting in more satisfied customers and more revenue overall.
Rules For Distributed Leadership
When it comes to distributed leadership, the structure is not just an afterthought but is included in the plan at the very beginning and ingrained in your company culture. Employees need to know that they have a voice, and it should be clear to everyone what role each person has in the leadership hierarchy.
The rules for distributed leadership can vary widely based on how flat or deep your company culture is, but you'll want to ensure there are guidelines for making decisions when leadership isn't available. For example, if the CEO goes out of town for a week on business and his replacement calls an important meeting—but no one shows up because nobody knows who's in charge—that's a problem.
You'll also want to outline when a leader should step in, such as when employees are stuck or if they are having difficulty getting decisions approved. For example, some leaders reserve decision rights for themselves in areas of high risk while allowing their team members to make calls on more mundane matters.
In addition, it's important that any new hires understand your company culture and know-how decisions get made at your company—and who has ultimate authority over what. For example, a new hire might be unaware that he needs to run every major decision by his supervisor before proceeding; if he doesn't follow those rules, he may upset other workers or even fail to secure key permissions from corporate leadership.
The Top Things To Consider When Starting With Distributed Leadership
Businesses with a distributed leadership structure have staff members dispersed throughout an organization. Instead of a traditional hierarchical structure with managers making decisions and assigning tasks, these companies have developed a new way to collaborate and make quick decisions at every level of an organization.
Such businesses have found that by working in teams across all levels, problems can be solved faster, and employees feel more engaged with their work because they are involved in it from start to finish. Companies considering distributed leadership should consider three things: training, internal policies, and external communications.
Training for everyone in your organization will ensure everyone knows what their responsibilities are within the distributed leadership model—and also know how to handle any issues as they arise. The next step is developing internal policies, such as a code of conduct and rules for making decisions. This will help make sure every employee understands exactly what is expected of them, and it'll be easier to correct people who don't follow those rules
Finally, businesses should plan external communications carefully when using a distributed leadership structure so all staff members can work together effectively and know how they fit into the big picture.
Benefits And Drawbacks Of Distributed Leadership
While some leaders believe a centralized approach is crucial for decision-making, distributed leadership provides several benefits, such as faster decision-making and reduced costs. Centralized leadership structures may take a long time to reach a consensus on an issue or resolution.
Meanwhile, distributed leadership gives employees time to resolve conflicts and issues in their work teams before presenting solutions to management. In centralized structures, all information about projects has to funnel up through one leader; however, when multiple leaders are empowered in distributed systems, each has access to different pieces of information that can be pieced together across teams—resulting in faster decision making.
Furthermore, distributing power among many leaders reduces bureaucratic bottlenecks associated with having one authority make decisions for everyone. When there is a single decision-maker in a centralized structure, they may have to consult several people before making a decision—which can take time and slow things down.
In distributed leadership structures, employees are empowered to act quickly without asking permission from the management; they can act based on their knowledge of their team's needs and goals.
However, while distributed leadership structures provide benefits such as faster decision-making and reduced costs, they also come with drawbacks. When distributed leadership is poorly implemented, it can lead to poor communication and coordination across teams, resulting in delayed projects or other problems.
Another drawback of distributed leadership is that it requires strong team management skills. Having leaders who are empowered to make decisions at their discretion means that leadership positions are very demanding, and not everyone is suited for them.
At times, a centralized structure can be more effective than distributed leadership in certain cases—for example, if your company doesn't have much experience with empowering employees to act on their own without prior approval.
When implemented well, however, distributed leadership structures provide faster decision-making than centralized approaches and better retain employees because they take an active role in how their work gets done.
Tips For Implementing Distributed Leadership In Your Team Or Company
Have a clear sense of mission, vision, and values. It's much easier to empower people if you have clarity about what you want. Keep in mind that not all values are created equal—some may contradict each other. Make sure people know which is most important and be willing to choose one over another when necessary.
Check-in regularly with your team on how they are doing: Give them opportunities to ask questions and share concerns so that they feel comfortable bringing up issues early on rather than bottling them up until they become huge problems. Encourage conversations that offer new perspectives and expose different viewpoints on a subject.
This fosters a culture of respect, inclusion, and teamwork. When someone has an idea, instead of just adopting it or dismissing it out of hand, share your thoughts on how to improve upon it or make it work within your vision for the company.
Be clear about what you want your company to look like in 5 or 10 years and ask them how they think achieving that vision might be possible. Encourage them to come up with as many ideas as possible rather than trying to work in a vacuum.