40. Collaborative Leadership

Our guest for this episode, Mike Beer, is back with us for an encore. He spoke with us a year ago about his latest book, Fit to Compete: Why Honest Conversations about Your Company’s Capabilities are the Key to a Winning Strategy.

Mike joins us now to discuss the distinction between top-down leadership and leadership that draws on the experience and insights of people throughout an organization. That topic dovetails nicely with Kim’s work, notably the Adaptive Leadership course she teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Collaborative leadership may sound like a new idea, but Mike explains that its roots go back at least to the 1950s with the publication of Douglass McGregor’s classic, The Human Side of Enterprise. McGregor contrasted two leadership styles: Type X (autocratic) and Type Y (participatory), reflecting two fundamentally different views of human nature.

The Type X leaders—and they are still with us—believe that people are basically lazy, self-interested, and not interested in the larger good. So they have to be straightened out and tightly controlled. Type Y leaders have a more optimistic viewpoint. They believe that people want to be productive, work with others, and make a difference. It’s the leader’s job to promote and actively support involvement.

Mike explains that it’s one thing to aspire to that kind of leadership, but quite another to do it well. It requires being open to new ideas and a willingness to hear criticism. Those traits don’t come easily to many of us, especially when the stakes are high. Listen to his advice here, and for more on Mike Beer’s work, check out his professional website: https://www.beermichael.com/.