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Democratizing Leadership to Lead a Breakthrough for Your Organization


Fri Apr 12 2024

Democratizing Leadership to Lead a Breakthrough for Your Organization

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What makes someone follow a leader? Is it their expertise? Their humanity? Both? Today, there’s increasing consensus that traditional leadership models are broken. Instead of relying on one leader, what would it look like to foster a mesh of leaders throughout an organization?

A Collaborative and Decentralized World

The digital world is more connected than ever, such that everyone has access to information and expertise. Traditionally, only the few at the top were privy to strategic information, but now, anyone can access information and form an opinion.


Social media has been at the forefront of this shift in power dynamics, but we also need to reflect on changing roles within organizations. Many companies are already flattening their structures. For some, this is unsettling, but avant-garde companies see the benefits of collective activism. Those companies nurture a culture of interdependence where everyone is empowered to create value and drive change, regardless of position or remit.

Of course, you don’t want lots of wannabe chiefs running in opposing directions. And the leader at the top shouldn’t completely disappear. Instead, they should enable a culture of trust and learning by defining vision and purpose while also allowing for mistakes.

The art is to engage and activate each individual, curating a culture that can serve as your platform to motivate and create competitive advantage. With an emotional connection to culture, including purpose and direction, along with the freedom to innovate, your followers will naturally evolve into a collaborative organization.

The Benefits of Democratizing Leadership

The benefits of democratizing leadership include:

  • Decision makers at the right time and place. To enable effective decision making throughout the organization, coach leaders to let go of being the only go-to person who knows everything.

  • Transparent flow of information. With less hierarchy and a better distribution of power, information will no longer be a jealously held safety net.

  • Value-driven teams. By allowing decisions at all levels, you encourage groups of people to come together as required by their various projects.

Creating the Empowered Organization

Democratizing leadership does not mean using a democratic leadership style. The latter is about leading by consensus, while the former is about implementing the fractal organization.


Fractal organizations have the ability to evolve and adapt, just like any system within nature. They have systems within systems that can be creative and flexible according to shifting circumstances. Within fractal organizations, departmental boundaries are no longer rigid, and roles and responsibilities flow so that the best decisions can be made.

But how can we create these interlinking groups of teams that are driven by value creation rather than hierarchies?

It all goes back to remembering that we are social creatures. Some companies that leveraged restorative circles during the COVID-19 crisis found that as a result, their people’s resilience increased, as did their ability to collaborate through conflict for greater outcomes.

Book clubs are another take on the restorative circle. Some evidence shows that book clubs can transform organizations and drive a learning culture by providing a safe space. In short, they effectively combine group and generational wisdom.

Other Methodologies to Transform Your Followers Into Leaders Within Their Remit

These factors can further encourage appropriate leadership development and democratization across your organization:

  • Leadership development for all. Ensure you make leadership development resources transparent and available to everyone.

  • Social and relational experiences. Shared experiences and relational training, for example through book clubs, can enable the evolution from heroic to collective leadership.

  • Nurturing learning behaviors. A culture needs to keep evolving by learning, which book clubs can also support. Evidence shows that exceptional teams are differentiated by how they learn.

Bringing Your Organization to the Future by Democratizing Leadership

Our current approach to leadership needs to change. People are demanding more purpose and social responsibility from their organizations. Furthermore, they want to be involved.

Democratizing leadership doesn’t mean leading by consensus. It means empowering all employees to become innovative decision makers within their remit. It also means providing leadership development to everyone.

The days of concentrating power and decision-making authority within an elite group of leaders are over, and we all need to collaborate more deeply than ever before if we want to survive today’s challenges.

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