Should Companies Push for Leaderless Teams?

In the local Dallas Morning News this morning, the July 16 Life At Work section featured a business productivity article with the interesting title "How tables shape power."

What does this have to do with marketing? Actually, quite a bit.

Fast pace and deep change make marketing leadership and decision making more challenging than ever. Just today, one of my CMO clients running a $100 million retail business confessed that he is now making decisions with less information than he had available 5 years ago.

Business moves quicker than our ability to gather and analyze the business. The old idea that the best leaders make the needed decisions when faced with ambiguity is taking on new meaning.

Yet when this Dallas paper interviewed Robert Blomstrom, president of Wilson Office Interiors who designs offices for companies in Dallas, he said.

"More offices are encouraging collaboration during meetings... In many meetings today, there isn't a leader. There are co-participants regardless of rank. So we tend to put tables with plenty of space around them so people can walk around... and are able to express themselves."

Yet, another source said the opposite. "Round tables create a sense of equality and hamper getting things done... while long, narrow tables and horseshoe-shape tables take focus away from the leader."

Why is this important? I believe it reflects the popular concept of "team work" that is out of control.

It takes a lot of people working together to get things done. But apparently companies do not view team work in the same way. Some see it as creating a work force where everyone is equal. Yet another wants to emphasize the importance of leadership and the team's clear recognition of who is guiding the ship.

What is your view? Do you see that leaders need to take control in making decisions? Or should the team somehow draw its own conclusions in due time so everyone backs the decision?

Another question remains.

Can teams reach better decisions in today's environment than leaders who tap into the team for input as needed reaching a decision for the team quickly? Or should companies eliminate ranks and organize a totally flat organization for better results? Your thoughts?

Posted on July 17, 2008 and filed under General.