Digital transformation comes to HR

How close is your relationship with your personnel department?

20 April 2023

Over the last few months of writing this column on leadership in the IT sector, there’s a clear theme that has emerged. It was unplanned, but, in hindsight, inevitable. Leadership is, fundamentally, about people. As important as strategy and vision are, they are nothing without the ability to communicate and motivate to bring plans to execution.

Perhaps even more important, though, is the ability to recognise that a leader’s role changes over time, as the organisation’s or team’s needs change. Famously, in the 1960s, researcher Bruce Tuckman suggested that groups go through phases of ‘forming, storming, norming and performing ’. Academics today prefer more prosaic terms like ‘transition phase’ and ‘action phase’ in order to account for the fact that teams tend to move from one to the other and back again. Transition phases are when groups are ‘forming’ or new goals are set; action phases are when work is in flow and the leader’s job is to manage, monitor and maintain output. It’s not a linear process. One school of thought suggests that leaders who are hyper-aware of the group dynamics and movements between phases should be intentional in their use of cycles to develop group capabilities for self-management, eventually becoming a mere facilitator of a self-guided and effective team. The ultimate goal is for empowered teams, and the ‘distributed leadership’ model favoured by ex-Cisco chief, John Chambers, or the flat hierarchies favoured by organisations such as Google.

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