Our increased demand for strong leadership in others expresses a desire for others to assume the ownership and responsibility for our group, our organization, and our society.

Peter Block

Peter’s quote brings us to an important question: When is ‘weak’ leadership a good thing? When we hear someone described as a ‘strong leader’ what does it mean? Does is suggest that no harm is going to come to us on their watch? That’s a pretty good feeling, but it lets us off the hook in many ways. If something ‘bad’ happens it won’t be our fault. If there are legal difficulties, well we were only following orders (we’d never use that excuse – would we?). Then there is the excuse that we were too low in the chain of command, we didn’t know what was going on, or we had no say. In a few brief sentences I have shown how quickly ‘strong leadership’ has become a convenient villain. Once started, the finger pointing has no end.

One of the interesting things about colonies of bees, ants and termites, is that there is little evidence of ‘strong leaders’. Instead here you find a great deal of individual ownership and responsibility. In a way these unassuming little creatures have discovered some important things about running successful, adaptive and resilient communities. Deborah Gordan has written a book entitled ‘How an Insect Society is Organized‘ which explores this topic in greater depth.

For me the most fascinating aspect of ant colonies is the COLLABORATIVE INTELLIGENCE (CQ) they display. In other words their ability to harness the intelligence and energy of the entire group (or team?). If collaborative intelligence is the main distinguishing feature, can we develop more collaborative intelligence in human teams and organizations? Yes we can. A close examination of collaborative intelligence (CQ) has turned up some basic principles that every team and business can use to become more effective.

I have isolated seven factors that build the collaborative intelligence of teams and businesses. The first two are: ASSUMPTIONS and PERCEPTIONS. When we consider assumptions the most important question is: what assumptions are running through your team or organization? Because the assumptions we make about the business we’re in, our clients, our colleagues, determine how we form the second factor: perceptions.

In subsequent posts I’m going to explore the effect assumptions and perceptions play in how your team operates. More importantly I will show you how to adjust them in ways that will enable you and your team to become more effective together. After all that is the name of this blog ‘Getting Clever Together’. Meet you here tomorrow.