A few years ago a global manufacturing company employed a team of corporate vice presidents whose jobs required traveling from site to site where the company operates to find and transfer best practices across 70 country locations. The practice seemed analogous to honey bees transferring life-giving pollen among the growing segments of the firm’s business.

These vice presidents essentially became traveling teachers, and by assigning them this responsibility, the company acknowledged the importance of moving leader-teachers far beyond the classroom.

Prepare your leader-teachers to fill four critical new roles outside of the classroom.

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  1. Network connectors
    "If HP only knew what HP knows.” Remember that statement? Network theorists say that people can’t determine what knowledge might be available only a few nodes away from them in an organization network. We can identify knowledge that exists with our direct contacts and their direct contacts. Beyond that, things get fuzzy.

    Leader-teachers can help people source the knowledge that resides beyond the network where they operate. The leader-teacher also can serve as that essential node that links one network to help transfer critical information and ideas across different parts of the organization.

  2. Aggregators of collective intelligence
    Organization knowledge is continually enhanced in real-time as teams collaborate and problem-solve together. By practicing effective listening and questioning, leader-teachers can aggregate and leverage new knowledge to improve organization agility and teams’ abilities to execute.

  3. Explorers and experimenters
    Most of us can barely recognize the kinds of work we did even 10 years ago as waves of change continue to flow faster through all industries and professional disciplines. Leader-teachers can help us continue to rise up and over these waves in two ways.

    First, they enable us to explore our futures by teaching us how to look for and find the horizons of our businesses, and help us know what to look for beyond those horizons. Second, they must teach us how to take small steps into the future, and lead the analysis of what we learn from each small step so that we are learning as we go. Only then can we avoid running too far down any path that leads to misfortune.

  4. Jazz makers
    The world now demands increased variety in the products and services produced to serve unique value propositions for clients. Meeting diverse needs externally requires increasing the diversity of perspectives and insights the organization draws from internally.

    Leaders teach teams about the essence of the work they need to do. Like a jazz ensemble, they establish a melody (the goal of the project), tempo (timing and priorities), and key (parameters within which the team should operate). As they facilitate dialogue, debate, and work activities as leader-teachers, they encourage and incorporate the diverse thinking that will help the team build on each other’s ideas. This enables an elegant improvisation that creates unique solutions to meet unique needs.

You can help leader-teachers take on these new roles by teaching them effective questioning, listening, debriefing, dialoguing and other skills needed to activate these roles. Then, provide forums to help leader-teachers share stories about how they are leveraging their new roles to affect organization performance and results.

Learn more from Leaders as Teachers Action Guide: Proven Approaches for Unlocking Success in Your Organizationavailable now.