Chapter Three. Shifting the Emphasis of Leadership Development: From “Me” to “All of Us”

Patricia M. G. O’ConnorDavid V. Day

A clear sense of identity serves as a rudder for navigating difficult waters.[1]

Consider the following scenarios:

  • An industry innovation leader attempts to recoup slipping market share after the introduction of a new business model involving the outsourcing of the customer service function to overseas contractors.

  • A multinational organization struggles with honoring a local practice for doing business (in this case, bribery) while simultaneously upholding a strong company value of fair, above-board negotiations.

  • A rising star executive suddenly finds her previously successful stakeholder strategy obsolete, when a national security breach shuts down her operation, leaving her to respond to unexpected demands from the media, federal and local authorities, and community groups.

Given the complexity of challenges facing organizations, it is critical that all employees shift how they think about leadership and their role within it. They must move from seeing themselves as independent actors (“me”) to seeing themselves as an interdependent collective (“all of us”) whose purpose is to produce leadership when and where the organization requires it. Only in this way will organizations be able to adapt to a highly complex world. But developing what we refer to as “collective leadership identities” goes against the grain of most people and organizations. ...

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