Appointed and Emergent Leaders – Competence, Commitment, and Respect

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An enterprise comprises one or more organizational units composed of groups and teams. A group is a “loosely-coupled” set of individual contributors formed around common work, primarily by function. A team is a “tightly-coupled” set of individuals working together, either voluntarily or involuntarily, and sharing mutual accountability. Ideally, the entire enterprise is a team, lead by the chief executive, and consisting of sub-teams both within and across functions.

An appointed leader is an individual assigned by a higher authority to an organizational unit, usually in a managerial capacity, or to a team. A leader can also be appointed by the team itself, either from within or recruited from the outside. As a manager, they may be given an official title, but in reality they have to earn the “leader” title by transforming a group into a team, or by enhancing an existing one. A team that becomes demotivated degrades to a group and can become dysfunctional.

An appointed leader will be respected, but not necessary liked, if they have the competence and commitment for the role, and if they treat others fairly consistent the values and guiding principles of the enterprise. In fact, if the leader is respected, the team will compensate for gaps in their competence by sharing accountability mutually to get things done.

Appointed leaders are common in institutional enterprises that are highly structured. Appointments should be made based upon competence and commitment, and potential for the future growth of the appointee, the enterprise, and its constituencies. However, appointments may be made on the basis of political intentions by those with vested interests regarding authority and power. As such, the appointee may “win” but the enterprise and its constituencies may lose.

An emergent leader develops organically from within a group or team, either because the group is not a team, or because the appointed leader is not performing. Emergent leaders evolve because of need; they have a “can do” mindset but are not individual contributors. They can establish an environment for motivating others to build accountability mutually. Emergent team leaders can evolve anywhere in the enterprise where there is a need.

Independent contributors are those who have strong functional knowledge and technical skills but lack the skills required to attract followers. Independent contributors are highly valuable if they can generate ideas that others can transform into value. If an individual contributor does not have competence and commitment and cannot adapt to participate as a team player, then their opportunities for advancement beyond menial tasks are limited.

Emergent leaders are common in entrepreneurial enterprises where roles, responsibilities, and activities are often vague and unstructured. They take solutions, not problems, to the entrepreneur or management that have “buy in” from others. They may become appointed leaders or they may never be formally recognized at all. However, it is usually widely understood within the enterprise as to who got the job done, sometimes in spite of others. Emergent leaders are well respected.

Those in a higher authority should pay attention as to how managers are performing as leaders, and to those who are the real leaders. Candidates for executive positions must be able to attract followers and build teams, or else the enterprise and its organizational units may degrade should they be appointed. An executive’s strength is dependent upon enterpriship competencies, not necessarily just subject area domain expertise.

Enterpriship comprises entrepreneurship, leadership, and management competencies.

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