Leadership in Holacracy

01/13/2014     

I am frequently asked: "What does leadership look like in Holacracy?" To answer that question it is necessary to examine one of the core tenets of Holacracy: distributed authority.

HolacracyOne refers to Holacracy as a "distributed authority" system, but I think it goes further. It is a system which incorporates: distributed accountability, authority, and leadership.

First, it distributes accountability. It allows each person to understand clearly who is expected to do what throughout the organization.

After that understanding is gained, Holacracy distributes authority. The authority distributed is to make whatever decisions each role filler deems will best fulfill the accountability, or responsibilities, of each role.

Distribution of accountability and authority, taken together, enable something very powerful: distributed leadership.

By contrast, in the traditional hierarchy-based system, leadership is the ability to lead your team (direct reports) to positive movements on your initiatives.

For example, in the traditional system, the leader:

  • Directs his or her team by watching over their work and making crucial decisions

  • Sets the vision and the roadmap for how the team will accomplish the vision

  • Mentors members of the team on their path through the organization

In the Holacracy leadership model, the leader:

  • Pushes forward the purpose of the circle/role by enabling each member to chart a personal course

  • Leads by example by “Living Holacracy”

  • Seeks to understand what decisions people are making in their roles and why, initiating constructive dialogue when there is a difference of opinion

  • Processes tensions in a manner consistent with the company’s cultural norms (Core Values)

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Author: John Bunch

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