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May the best team win

When it comes to leadership, Patrick Tame, founder of headhunting organisation Beringer Tame has a view that could be described as “alternative”.

“My company is here to serve the employee, not the other way around” he says – in a statement some might find counter-intuitive. “It’s my role to identify three things staff are doing each week and then publicise the hell out of it,” he explains.

As someone who recruits other leaders for a living, it’s perhaps to be expected that Tame has a good idea about what modern leadership looks like.  He was the first in the UK to recruit a CEO by asking candidates to create Vine videos, to get a better feel for ‘who they really were’.  He argues that anyone who thinks this view of business is odd needs to have a good look at themselves.  According to Tame, leaders must accept talent is transitory and recognise that attracting and retaining skilled individuals requires commitment.  He says leaders need to recognise they are lucky to have their talent for the time they do.  And it’s this view that needs to be mainstream, and not be the exception to the rule.  Understanding this, he says is the secret to creating winning teams.

Academic research backs this up.

By 2020, 50% of the global workforce will be ‘millennials’ – those born between 1980-2000. For these people, job-hopping to find employers whose values align with their own will be the norm [91% of millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years according to].  Leadership styles must respond to this – and this is beginning to be couched in terms of authenticity – being the ‘real you’. However if the ‘what’ sounds simple, there’s one thing millennials can spot a mile off: in-authenticity. The dilemma for leaders is how not to look like they’ve just swallowed the latest management tome on the subject.

Being authentic increasingly means letting staff take responsibility. Richard Branson cites his success as surrounding himself with people that have skills he doesn’t have and then trusting them to run with it.

“Good leadership is understanding the authority you’re actually retaining – be it the strategy, filter or coach role – and then letting people run with the rest,” says Tim Taylor, director of leadership consultancy, Making Great Leaders. “The best realise that when they do this, their own role changes too.”

Those who embrace staff empowerment and leadership as simply being ‘there to facilitate’ could do worse then look across to what American brand Zappos is doing.

It has adopted ‘holacracy’’ (holon being the Greek for ‘a whole that’s part of a greater whole’) where job titles and traditional leadership hierarchy is replaced with staff being invited to join projects according to the skills they can bring.  The idea is responsibility comes from staff being accountable to all their co-workers rather than to a specific boss (who simply has a direction-setting role).  In other words, work doesn't originate from top-down orders, it comes from individuals themselves.

Could this be the future?  Several UK organisations (including aerospace firm Matt Black Systems) are now trying it.  So, when will you make ‘alternative’ the new ‘normal’?