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While technological innovations have changed the way work happens, challenges to organizational interaction remain largely the same: vertical radio silences, silos jamming circuits, socio-cultural static. What’s more, although traditional hierarchies and processes enable people to address the daily flow, these structures impede timely identification of hazards and stall an active response to both threats and opportunities.
The skill of leader-as-architect was meant to address these very issues. Of the Six Skills, it is perhaps the most difficult to enact for three reasons:
The other five skills represent crucial yet comparatively one-dimensional functions. These roles all suggest a set orientation to horizontal or vertical structure. The producer and the recipient are on two different ends of a vertical continuum; a distributor is almost entirely concerned with the horizontal; the advisory function is the epitome of vertical structure; while the analyst need only be theoretically concerned with the difference.
Only the leader-as-architect must chart and master both vertical and horizontal dynamics. The metaphor of the leader-as-architect, then, is most serviceable when it is understood to encompass both the architect and the master-builder functions. Otherwise, the architect metaphor may be confusing, or even paradoxical: a siloed, autonomous designer set apart from the wider organizational circuitry. In reality, any successful leader-as-architect must set, and oversee, not only the vision and strategy but also the means and execution—across the organization.
Michael Pino is the Digital Learning and Technology Leader at GE Crotonville.
Leaders need to make sure that their organizations are designed to encourage self-organized horizontal discourse and exchange.
At the same time they must mitigate the risks of irresponsible use through smart policies and vertical accountability frameworks.