Commonwealth100 CommonPurpose Learning 2018

By Mahmud

Article: Creating and breaking out of boundaries

Interconnected: How can we lead across boundaries?

During the initial Commonwealth100 conversations, when thinking about how the 21st century is different from the past, the one response that always came up was how our world is shrinking. We are closer to each other than ever before, with the immense progress that has been made in communication and transport. As the world shrinks and we become more and more connected with each other, we also naturally become more aware of the similarities and differences of our experiences. While neither migration nor international co-operation are new concepts, political, economic, and ecological actions in one location now have a greater impact on people across the world.

What does this mean for our leadership?

Many successful leaders learn to lead in roles or circumstances where they have clear authority: they have a budget, accountability, and a team of people whose job it is to support them. The result of this leadership model, however, is that many organizations operate in silos: with each division or department looking upwards and seldom sideways at issues that cross the verticals. You may even find this at universities for example, where departments operate very independently and seldom engage in horizontal exchange with each other, despite multiple possibilities of overlap. Interdisciplinary learning can often get forgotten or dismissed in this environment.

Organizations now need leaders to see across the whole organization and make the sum of the parts greater than the whole. They need leaders who understand the value of networks which extend far beyond the traditional confines – and, more importantly, know how to lead them. Opportunities (and threats) will not come neatly packaged to fit the department, or division, or sector, or culture, or even country into which we have arranged ourselves. They will cross boundaries and come through walls – and leaders need to be able to do this too.

It does not stop at organizations. Society needs leaders who can overcome the silo problem inside their organization – and then move across different spheres of activity outside it and connect them too. This requires leaders who are prepared to challenge the “leave it be” culture; leaders who can take responsibility for problems other than their own, both within organizations and in society at large; leaders who can still lead when their legitimacy is constantly challenged. 

In order to do this well, leaders need to lead peers, partners and stakeholders – and in doing so they may find that the skills that initially brought them success may not be enough. To operate effectively, they need a different approach to leadership- they need to be Open Source Leaders. 

It’s not about having authority but choosing not to use it; it’s about having no authority at all (and sometimes less than that). It’s about earning legitimacy with ideas that resonate – and an approach to leadership that means people end up willingly granting authority to you. This is a particularly relevant trait for leaders who seek to be interconnected and forge networks and connections that will allow them to solve common problems.

What do these circles represent in your life? How could you lead outside your inner circle?

Exercise: The Importance of being Interconnected

Leaders can operate in three different spaces or ‘circles’ – the inner circle – where they have personal authority, the first outer circle – their organization as a whole where they might have less authority and the outermost circle – in society, where they may have no authority whatsoever.

Success in one circle is by no means an indicator of success in another. Those who are successful in their inner circle, where their authority is clearly defined and rarely questioned, eventually may need to venture into the outer circles. Here they will find that in order to make things happen they will have to rely on their capacity to persuade and their ability to form networks and coalitions. They will also have to adjust to new ways of working. They may find they have to become better and working with other people and may even have to adopt new approaches and methods in the way they lead.

Few Opinion: 

Shivani Raheja – Sunday, 7 October 2018, 1:39 PM

Being a student, I am an editor for an organisation that publishes articles on international issues.

The first circle, for me, represents my team of writers.

The second circle, are the other teams in the organisation.

The third circle is the readership who read our articles. 

I can influence outside my inner circle by making sure that the articles written by my team evoke a sense of duty, responsibility and care in the readers.

 Jomana Elsadig – Sunday, 7 October 2018, 2:53 PM

As a school teacher , the inner circle i operate within involves my level of knowledge, style of teaching, the influence i exert on my students and the general atmosphere of my class. The first outer circle would be the school am serving at. And the outermost circle consist of the various schools…

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