Created by Marc Chmielewski

#favouritemodels No. 30 - Leading leaders

When a leader's own employees themselves have leadership responsibility for teams or parts of the organization, the leadership role is expanded by quite decisive facets. This is because, as leaders move up the organizational hierarchy, they increasingly take on an intermediary role in which their direct influence on employees is limited and it is more a matter of influencing an organization indirectly through the next level of leaders.

In the leadership of leaders, it is therefore no longer (only) a matter of classic leadership in the sense of creating a framework in which others can achieve their best possible performance (favouritemodel No. 1), but rather of using one's own leadership work to create and maintain a shared leadership culture with the "co-leaders" in which everyone acts in a motivated and autonomous manner.

Leading other leaders therefore involves the responsibility of creating an environment and atmosphere that enable other leaders to lead effectively for their part. To achieve this, the focus of a continuous learning process with the leadership team is above all the joint discussion of values, convictions and supposed self-evident facts that should guide behavior in leadership. Accordingly, leadership at this level is actually no longer operational, but focuses on the following topics.

... Creating a shared leadership culture. As with any culture design, our Reflect-Talk-Walk-Repeat model (favouritemodel No. 25) can help here as well. The core responsibility, however, is to align the leadership approaches of the entire leadership team so that they provide effective guidance for shared leadership behavior. Of course, all will maintain their individual leadership characteristics. At the same time, it is important that the concrete leadership practice itself is made an explicit topic. As part of this ongoing agreement on leadership within the leadership team, expectations regarding desired and undesired leadership behavior are clarified with one another.

... Observing and questioning how leadership is practiced. Based on a common orientation of leadership, it is important to continuously observe how leadership is put into practice. This means obtaining and giving feedback on leadership behavior within the team and thus maintaining a regular exchange on the topic of leadership.

... Establishing rituals and routines. Since culture is mainly maintained through rituals, the responsibility of leaders who lead leaders is to establish rituals and routines that serve to support the desired leadership culture. These interventions can vary according to the stage of development of the company, e.g., from annual reflection meetings, to fixed rounds of exchange on the topic of leadership, to the agreement of concrete leadership goals.

... Giving leadership a value in itself. If leadership itself does not produce tangible or visible results, but enables others to produce those results, there needs to be an explicit appreciation for these leadership actions. Otherwise, it might be more attractive for a leader to remain active at the operational level and thus generate results himself or herself, rather than enabling others to succeed. Leadership and leadership behavior should therefore be an essential component when measuring a manager's performance.

... Using and balancing the different perspectives and needs within the organization. To achieve results through others, one of the key leadership tasks is to ensure that the organizations full potential is exploited. Therefore, the leadership responsibility is to look carefully at the preferences and dominant perspectives within the organization with a view of identifying what other perspectives might also be helpful in achieving its goals. Based on these observations, formats must be developed that enable and acknowledge diversity and variety of perspectives. For example, the constant use of creative methods helps to "lift" all ideas and thoughts from the team. Often, the inclusion of diverse perspectives also succeeds when they are made an issue at the process or meta level. (favouritemodel No. 24), so that the team learns in the long term how necessary different points of view are for securing and developing its own business model.

... identifying and breaking unfavorable patterns within the organization. Every organization reproduces itself through a series of constitutional operations. These repetitive actions are patterns that provide guidance to those involved because everyone seems to know what to do. Sometimes, however, these patterns are still used when their original goals are no longer being pursued. Thus, it is the task of leaders who lead other leaders to observe and question these patterns that exist within the organization. Particularly where they are maintained for their own sake, they need to be disrupted in order to facilitate improvement.

... Enabling others to make decisions based on transparent criteria. The task of leaders is not necessarily to make decisions alone. Leaders must make decisions when no one else will. First and foremost, however, they need to enable others to make decisions. The essential leadership responsibility is to be transparent about decision criteria. As a leader of other leaders, it is important to make your own team aware of this. In addition, decision criteria should be a fundamental part of the exchange within the leadership team to ensure that both decisions and the culture of decision making are aligned between the teams. This aspect in particular contributes enormously to a coherent leadership culture.

How does my #favouritemodel help you?

As a leader of leaders, direct influence on one's own organization is limited. As a rule, this only occurs indirectly through the next level of executives. Thus, the key question is:

What leadership intervention could trigger the desired leadership behavior within the next level and thus achieve the desired impact on the entire organization?

Accordingly, as a leader of leaders, I must constantly think and act in terms of interventions at multiple levels:

  1. how should action be taken in the organization?
  2. what leadership behavior favors this action?
  3. which leadership behavior favors leadership behavior at downstream levels that promotes the desired behavior throughout the organization?

Since, at the same time, the concrete leadership actions of the next level usually cannot be observed directly, it is crucial to continuously make the desired and concrete leadership actions a topic of discussion in the performance team in order to consolidate the lived leadership culture and to continuously question and further develop the leadership behavior of the leadership team in personal discussions, for example with the help of the second-order observation (favoritemodel No. 22). Since I often find that this perspective on leadership is not very well developed in practice, this favoritemodel is particularly important to me.

Feel free to write me if you want to exchange ideas. By mail or on LinkedIn. You can find direct links to these channels in my profile.


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