Like it or not, we are in the midst of an emerging leadership landscape. Never before has there been a time when so many different generations were brought together in a working environment. The lines of authority are blurring, Baby Boomers are working right alongside Millennials, and the way in which companies have traditionally organized themselves is changing—we are beginning to see more horizontal work structures. While at times this can result in conflict, I see this as an exciting opportunity where new ideas and means of communication are evolving.
As a Millennial, I’m comfortable with the horizontal leadership model. Influence doesn’t need to come from the top alone—meaningful leadership can be expressed at all levels of an organization. That means it’s not just about control anymore—it’s about building and solidifying strong relationships no matter where you sit in an organization. People should be encouraged to bring their talents to bear on collective challenges and collaborate with people up, down and across their department.
While this seems ideal, the reality is that it can get quite muddled. You have many generations working together and with that comes different ways of thinking and varying levels of capabilities. If people focus on the differences, you risk frustration and losing focus on the bigger picture. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that ambiguity is not the enemy. It is a catalyst for great thinking and problem solving.
Carol Coletta talks about this idea of “chaotic alignment.” It may sound contradictory or maybe impossible on first blush. But in actuality, it is what we are (sometimes subconsciously) creating nowadays. It’s happening all around us—in cities, companies and our communities. With divergent ideas and work styles comes undeniable chaos and ambiguity, but bringing together unique talents and creativity results in something much more rewarding. Through this convergence, we become more understanding and empathetic of others. We expand our thinking and that leads to better ideas.
While challenges are unavoidable, we should not run from this changing leadership landscape. We should explore the idea that influence can come from different parts of an organization, not just top-down. We should focus on forging strong relationships with our colleagues—no matter where they fall on the org chart. We should bring our unique abilities and ideas to the creative space. We should not fear chaotic alignment.