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

2 Comments

  1. D41d8cd98f00b204e9800998ecf8427e
    1. user said 7 months ago

    Hey John,

    I was in the PCT with you in Philly.

    And I saw you at the Gold Spike the other night, sry I didn't say hi, but I got in a couple of great conversations with people and then got tired and ducked out with out saying hi It looked like you guys were having an interesting conversation. Hows things with H roll out and companywide adoption? How about the flower shop? Have you done the 30 days goal program with Z's life coach?

    Awesome post, I love the further distinction of distributed accountability and distributed authority being components of distributed leadership. I especially Love the part about initiating constructive dialogue when there is a difference of opinion. I imagine some people coming from more traditional backgrounds must struggle with the open transparency Holacracy provides and I think you point to a key incentive to give others transparency, being able to receive constructive feedback thru multiple perspectives!

    I think another key component of distributed leadership are the role purposes and circle purposes, I think this is a key part of pulling work forward with attention and awareness, distributed purpose, haha, do you think?

  2. D41d8cd98f00b204e9800998ecf8427e
    2. user said 2 months ago

    Seems to me a natural progression for any organization where the leaders trust their own hiring abilities. Kudos to Zappos for believing in and committing to follow through with their foundational principles.

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