Our working environments are changing. Many leaders now find themselves in situations where they know less than their highly specialised employees, where change comes quickly, and where collaboration and flexibility are essential for innovation.
On the one hand, when it comes to creating a clear vision, clarity is more important than ever; but on the other hand, true collaborative leaders need to be able to make compromises. So how do you know where to draw the line? When should you stick to a clear vision and when is it better to find a compromise? Leading between these poles can be a challenge and requires a new set of skills.
An apt example of this is the conductor who leads the orchestra. A conductor needs to convey the intention and message of a composed musical piece to a group of individually highly specialised musicians in order to create a harmonic result. A lack of clarity leads to confusion and a dissonant interpretation. At the same time, the conductor needs to give the musicians enough freedom to play independently so that the whole orchestra can convey feeling.
To solve the ‘conductor’s dilemma’ there are two things I think you need: for the leader to be transparent in his or her process and a high level of trust between all of the team members. Leaders who can work this way and build these teams are better able to oscillate between clarity and compromise. It means they can step back when necessary and allow for independence but still lead people to work for a common goal.