• Third Sector Radio USA

    I think we agree that a hierarchical model of leadership can be unproductive, even detrimental, in the highly dynamic and multi-networked environments in which most 21st-century nonprofits operate. I would argue that leaders of today’s most meaningful nonprofit–whether they are single individuals or multiple individuals–need to be flexible enough to share leadership with others. I find the concept expressed by Lichtenstein, Uhl-Bien, Marion, Seers, Orton and Schreiber (2006) as leadership resting in the interactions between parties–not leadership resting within individuals–intriguing. It changes how we think of leadership in participatory contexts.

    • sr911

      Versus the “squawking and flapping” of a non-hierarchical model? I find it comical and simultaneously sad to watch many nonprofits try to stay organized in the face of any deviation from their original plan. It is usually due to lack of a clear structure which was not put in place to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings or to provide “flexibility”. Oddly enough, the problem with it is that there’s usually too much flexibility and you wind up with the operational equivalent of a block of Jell-O as different people try to enact their own ideas simultaneously.

      You can be flexible and delegate authority to lower levels without going away from having a very clean and easy to follow org chart. It works very well for the military and has for hundreds if not thousands of years. Just because you have to work across agencies etc does not mean that the hierarchical approach does not work. Usually if there are problems it is due to people not understanding where in the chain of command they fall and the limits of their authority. I work very regularly with a multitude of different groups, domestically and internationally, but yet the only time there is a problem with organization is when our opposite number has a convoluted org chart and it is hard to tell who has authority over what.