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What is distributed leadership?

It seems like everyone is talking and writing about Leadership, D&I and Mindfulness right now!

Gitte Frederiksen’s TED talk on distributed leadership – replacing power of the few with influence of the many, where the first step is removing labels like job titles, the second is sharing everything and third is being kind to each other.

Trevor Phillips at the CIPD annual conference in 2019 said that “Distributed leadership is the “future of business” because leaders are forced to listen to and work with their employees”

Lilly Singh talking about how we can encourage and empower women and girls to “forget a seat at the table – it’s time to build a whole new table”

The TED talk that went viral in 2015 summarising The Harvard Study of Adult Development, which concludes that quality social connection is the happiness factor.

These broadcasts got me thinking and asking questions about why, despite so much evidence to the contrary, so many organisations are still glued to the traditional hierarchical structure, why we still have so so far to go on our D&I journey, and why happiness still seems so far away for so many people.

Why do we still chase status and money ahead of mastery and contentment?

Why don’t we pay our women the same as our men?

Why is our default so often to exclude and to create a special elite club, rather than throwing the doors open and inviting everyone to join in at the top?

Why don’t we put salary brackets on every job advert?

Why don’t we put more value on nurturing our relationships?

What can I do to make a difference?

What can I do, and what changes can I make in my everyday life that would help?

Well I don’t have answers to most of those questions, I’m still pondering and asking yet more and more questions, so that will have to wait for another day.

But I can answer what can I do to make a difference?

In Buddhism, kosen-rufu can be interpreted as changing the world by first changing yourself.

So this seemed like a good place to start.

  • Think really honestly about what my status and job title mean to me, and why? Why do I want a job title that indicates high rank, seniority etc? Why is it important to me that others see that?
  • Search to find as many examples as I can where my default was exclusivity, or where bias affected my thoughts or actions, and challenge why that was, and how I can recognise it next time.
  • Build inclusivity, distributed leadership and mindfulness elements into the heart of every package my business provides.
  • Then challenge others I talk to, to do the same.
  • Inspire anyone and everyone around me to challenge their own thinking on these topics, and to ask themselves the difficult questions.
  • Find ways, everyday, to elevate those who are at a disadvantage.
  • Prioritise my close relationships

I think it comes down to courage, perspective and commitment to change.

Having the courage to actually ask yourself the difficult questions, the courage to be honest with yourself, and to admit and acknowledge how you feel.

Then to change your perspective – swap shoes with the CEO or the new starter and ask yourself how you might feel in their shoes. Take on a different gender, age, race, disability or other discriminatory factor and try and gain a new perspective on things.

Then comes the hard part, having done all that, there should surely be a few light bulb moments when you realise you’re going to have to make some changes, you’re going to have to acknowledge some difficult truths, and you might have to make some difficult decisions that you will need all of your courage and bravery to uphold.

But surely that is where real change happens?

Surely that is where real momentum starts to build?

Surely that is where the scales start to tip?

The good news is that we all have it in our power to challenge our own way of thinking, our own drivers, motivators, prejudices and our own pursuit of happiness.

We can all take some action, today, to start making a difference to ourselves, and then to others around us, and bit by bit, that change, that commitment to change, is what will really change the world.

To hear more about distributed leadership, I was interviewed on Cumbria Chamber of Commerce’s podcast – take a listen here:

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