Do we need a new leadership approach for projects?
Last week I joined a discussion on LinkedIn, triggered by Dr. Marcus Raitner, Agile Transformation Agent at BMW, who pulled together a “Human Leadership Manifesto”. The discussion was based on the assumption that in an agile world, traditional leadership approaches do not suffice anymore. Project teams need to organise their work more on their own, not waiting on somebody to tell them what to do. Leaders need to provide guidance on the overall direction, they should provide the framework in which the team can operate and be more servant (“servant leadership style”), helping the people to perform their tasks…
The manifesto highlights in its introduction the belief in the creativity and motivation of human beings and the “human leadership” as pivotal in a highly networked and complex world. The manifesto concludes that the task of leadership is serving life and striving for conditions in which people can contribute in the best possible way, in which they can develop themselves and work effectively together.
The values applicable according to the Human Leadership Manifesto are:
Unleashing human potential
over employing human resources;
Diversity and dissent
over conformity and consensus;
Purpose and trust
over command and control;
Contributions to networks
over position in hierarchies;
over leading followers; and
Courageously exploring the new
over efficiently exploiting the old.
Let´s have a look at the first statement “Unleashing human potential over employing human resources”. Everybody is motivated to engage and do something special. We do not need to “command and control” people, they are adult… We just need to “find the right people to do the right job”, they will perform it through intrinsic motivation, they may need guidance regarding the overall direction but find their own way towards an innovative solution. Especially in a context where success depends on flexible work arrangements, innovative solution finding and mutually-beneficial cooperation, less leadership as well as work autonomy is necessary. Or the last statement of the manifesto: “Courageously exploring the new over efficiently exploiting the old.” People are excited of getting a chance to explore and learn new things. This may result in an increasing effectiveness, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. Leadership needs to encourage people to explore, to spend time on new solutions, to allow them to fail and not just find solutions for an incremental improvement of existing processes.
You could argue that this leadership does not work in all project settings, and I fully agree. However, in the dynamic world of today with complex challenges of projects and programmes, we need to adopt a different leadership approach. The Manifesto may cause us to think different and vary our leadership style.
What do you think of the manifesto?