The New Leadership Paradigm

Nearly two and a half years ago, I wrote a blog about the transition in leadership style from traditional models towards Leaderful Practice; being a model researched and popularised by Joe Raelin, Professor of Management and Organisation Development at Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts.

What strikes me now is how prophetic that blog was in relation to the very rapid changes in leadership style both demanded and practised since then in New Zealand businesses and organisations. We have and are seeing a massive shift in leadership style, driven by employee expectations, new ways of working, and in the communications technology used to support them both. No longer leadership as hero, but leadership as partner. This shift is so widespread now it can be viewed as the new leadership paradigm.

To recap, Raelin characterises Leaderful Practice by the four Cs:

  • Collectiveness (everyone can serve as a leader)
  • Concurrency (members serve as leader at the same time)
  • Collaboration (members are co-creating the enterprise)
  • Compassion (members commit to preserving the dignity of all).

Leaderful Practice is a democratic, participative and inclusive model of leadership in which the notion of leader and follower have no place; every member is equally free to express and to engage.

It’s not common for organisations to describe their leadership as ‘Leaderful Practice’ but the four Cs are increasingly alive and well in many organisations.

Most recently we have seen two corporates re-organising their structures to accommodate the Agile approach for their work. Agile rests strongly on collectiveness, concurrency and collaboration.

We see the compassion element developing strongly also, through our increased involvement in culture and engagement projects with our clients. A central tenet of these projects is the development of listening to one another, caring for each other and providing support; embedding these compassion elements into workplace practice and culture.

Servant Leadership, and more recently Host Leadership are also increasingly seen in leadership writing and practice. These too express this shift towards the new leadership paradigm.

Servant Leadership seeks to involve others in decision making, is strongly based in ethical and caring behaviour, and enhances the growth of workers while improving the caring and quality of organisational life. The Servant Leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.

Host Leadership is a concept derived from Servant Leadership; the leader as host stepping out to welcome ‘guests’, introducing them into new networks, and supporting them to interact with others. Host Leadership identifies six roles for the leader as host:

  1. Initiator: starts things moving by going first
  2. Inviter: reaches out their hand to invite and engage
  3. Space creator: generates the ‘workspace’
  4. Gate-keeper: decides what can and can’t come in
  5. Connector: opens the networks for others to join
  6. Co-participator: works in the team that generates the outcomes.

By moving between these roles as the context requires, the leader as host assures the ‘guests’ of a good time and productive outcomes for the organisation.

The new leadership paradigm is employee-centric, as distinct from the leader-centric approaches of the previous century: leadership as enabler, supporter and provider, rather than as dictator.

For leaders to embrace the new paradigm, a few things have to happen:

  • A mindset that allows a new type of relationship with their employees, including a genuine interest in them and their wellbeing
  • Self-awareness to monitor their own leadership performance
  • Reflective practice to systematically modify their own leadership behaviours
  • Development support to help them change
  • Improved coaching skills to enable others to grow into their own new workspace.

If you need help to embrace this new leadership paradigm, Talk to Us; we have the experience and expertise to help you.

If you would like to do some further reading:

The Leaderful Practice Model

What is Servant Leadership?

The Host as Leader: A New Paradigm


Kyran Newell
Director, ODI
July 2018