in the federal government come together under one agency's auspices to identify
strategies they can pursue together, finding that the informal links between
them often prove more effective for cooperation than the formal policies and
structures of government. Foundations form partnerships with community
stakeholders to take on challenges beyond what they could do on their own,
finding that their financial resources are only part of what they bring to the
table. In various sectors, leaders are doing things differently – working
beyond their hierarchies and siloes and building coalitions and networks to
achieve an ever greater mission than a single organization can take
IAF has been
tracking these developments and has noted the emergence of a new model of
leadership, which can be called "coalition leadership." Coalition leadership
deviates from conventional notions of leadership in several important ways, in
particular by focusing on:
Trust, not fear –
Coalition leaders are willing to trust those around them, and are willing to let
go of the fears (e.g., of failure, incompetence, or lack of control) that
typically come with positions of leadership. They can let go of leadership
tactics that have historically disempowered people and they can unleash the full
creative power of those around them.
Nodes, not hubs –
Coalition leaders are willing to see themselves as just another "node" in a
larger network working toward a common purpose, rather than as a "hub" around
which others should organize themselves as "spokes." Coalition leaders bring
what they bring, while valuing the contributions brought by others.
organization – Coalition leaders are concerned with contribution, not
attribution. Their principal aim is achieving the mission, not preserving the
organization itself or building its brand. This frees them to collaborate more
willingly on innovative initiatives with the potential to advance the
power – Coalition leaders seek influence across a wide network of people and
organizations, but in exchange they are willing to forgo the power that leaders
have historically wielded. This is because they play a "long game," and they
recognize that true transformation cannot be effected through power alone.
Others must be brought along if the changes are to last.
Soul, not role –
Coalition leaders see beyond the job titles or other professional "masks" that
people wear, appreciating the fullness and individuality of every human being.
For themselves, they focus on what they feel is their own true calling rather
than on achieving status through higher and larger roles.
This new model
of "coalition leadership" strikes at the core of many of our assumptions about
what leadership is and should be. For example, leaders are typically evaluated
based on whether or not they have achieved their goals. It is commonly thought
that goals should be "achievable," and the implication is that they should be
achievable with the resources at the leader’s disposal. The fear that these
resources may be wasted then prompts a set of evaluation methods that tend to
increase the leader's aversion to risk. This then incentivizes leaders to set
goals that are less ambitious than they might otherwise be. For example, after
working with a government agency to set its GPRA goals (goals that are submitted
to the Office of Management and Budget), IAF concluded that government agencies
consistently underperform because they are guided by goals that are set too low
because of the penalties associated with their non-achievement.
the role of an organization simply as a node on a larger network, the concept of
coalition leadership implies that if an organization can achieve its goals on
its own, and with its own resources, then the goals are not ambitious enough.
This is consistent with the fact that the most important challenges we face
today are beyond what any one organization could solve on its own; collaboration
across a wide range of stakeholders is essential. Coalition leadership then
offers a framework for how these great challenges can be overcome – through the
wise exercise of influence across networks of peer organizations, all committed
to a common purpose.
information on "coalition leadership" and its implications for your
organization, contact Eric Meade at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: This article is informed by
Wei-Skillern, Jane, & Marciano, Sonia, “The Networked
Nonprofit”, Stanford Social Innovation
Review, Spring 2008. All five bullets are
informed by Laloux, Frederic,Yellow Organizations: A Handbook for
Organizations’ Next Evolutionary Stage(unpublished
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Upward African Women
Mission is to increase the diversity of corporate America by increasing the diversity of business school faculty. We attract African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Native Americans to business Ph.D. programs, and provide a network of peer support on their journey to becoming professors.