Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bricolage leadership for wicked problems

Is anyone familiar with Keith Grint’s model of leadership?  Apparently he has been developing it for a while, but I just read his paper from 2010 on wicked problems, clumsy solutions, and the ways different kinds of leaders deal with them.  I was really impressed with his take.  I am proud to say that I have been espousing the same basic ideas for even longer than his papers have been around.  But he got them published, so hats off to Keith J.

He creates a 2-dimensional matrix of leadership characteristics. 

  • If there is no need to collaborate among the team and there is no uncertainty about the solution, a command and control leadership style is called for.
  • If there is a large need to collaborate among the team and a lot of uncertainty about how to proceed, a Jim Collins Level-5 leadership style is called for.
  • In the middle (on both dimensions) calls for a process manager. 

But what I like the most is that he talks about using a bricolage strategy to implement your leadership.  On your team there are going to be people who prefer different ways of being managed.  Some team members will respond to a hierarchical, high power (in the Hofstede sense) leader.  Others will thrive in a free-market where they are empowered to experiment and pursue their own directions.  Still others will gravitate towards group decision making and consensus building.  Instead of picking one, the best leaders will create lots of small initiatives that mix and match among them.  This is what he terms “clumsy” solutions and strongly recommends them for the “wicked” problems that have high uncertainty and require collaboration. 

He has a whole stream of papers on this topic so I am sure I have oversimplified and missed lots of good insights.  Good reads.  I recommend them.