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The Five Hidden Leadership Principles Business Schools Don’t Teach

Being a catalyst for collective intelligence is what leadership is about today.

What’s emerging in the world of leadership? 

A president of a global bank recently told me, “We are becoming more of a matrix organization where roles and responsibilities constantly change to the point when people ask me about their roles and responsibilities I find myself saying let’s wait and see what happens. It will become clear when it does, only to change again.”

No doubt that our organizations, businesses and communities are evolving. However, much of what we still think, write and teach about the practice of leadership remains tailored to a different climate.

Yet, slowly and radically the way some of us practice and execute leadership on the front lines and in our the day to day life is necessarily shifting in response to the changing context. After over 15 years of researching, coaching and educating executives and their teams, here is my sense of the leadership world and the shifts that are in process.

1. The model of the leader directing followers is necessary AND is no longer sufficient.  Most leadership theory and practice assumes that leaders direct and lead followers. However more and more in cross functional teams, matrix organizations, mergers/acquisitions or top executive teams, we face the challenge of leading leaders. In today’s rapidly evolving world where more and more people can and need to exert leadership we need a model for leading leaders.

2. Leadership has evolved from the single boss to more shared leadership or collaboration. The next step in leadership is from sharing leadership (collaboration) to simultaneous leadership (coleaderation) where everyone is a leader.

3. If everyone just leads at the same time we have the challenge of too many chefs in the kitchen. The key is for leaders to learn to lead and follow at the same time, not just take turns, but leading and following simultaneously.

4. Simultaneous leadership simulates the conditions needed for true innovation to occur. When leaders learn to lead and follow simultaneously, influence and be influenced, passionately assert thinking and ideas while concurrently letting them go for others to see and use, something very unique and inspiring happens.

5.  When we lead followers we create followers. When we lead leaders we create leaders. The leading leaders model creates organizations that organically develop leaders. The predominant leading followers models informs most leadership development training, including those of major business schools. Educating leaders to lead only followers creates dependence on external leadership development programs.

How do you see leadership evolving in your organization and your life? What challenges do you face currently?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Let the conversation begin!

Jeff Spahn

Founder and President

Leading Leaders 



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