By Mehrdad Baghai and James Quigley
As One. It’s a short phrase. Only five letters. But those five letters are filled with meaning and inspiration. They make all the difference between a group of individuals and a unified team. Those five letters symbolize the culmination of individual action into collective power. They describe how individuals can collaborate to achieve extraordinary results—together.
“The aspiration to work as one is the timeless leadership challenge.”
“The marketplace is constantly—and for the most part efficiently—selecting winners. Whether the competition is for capital, talent or market share, the winning edge can almost always be determined by the organization that is best able to work together as one. Collective power is a powerful competitive force. Frequently the case studies on leadership point to the enterprise as a whole, and its leader, generally the CEO. The winning edge that the “As One” approach can provide, is clearly available to an entire enterprise and its CEO—but these leadership concepts also cascade throughout an organization. Business unit leaders, product managers, and account team leaders who are able to work as one will perform at a higher level. Whether as a team of five or a team of 50,000, the aspiration to work as one is the timeless leadership challenge.”
“Leadership can come in many different shapes and sizes.”
Every day, millions of people around the world collaborate. We join, share, and cooperate with others from different countries and backgrounds, across organizations and industries. The world continues to advance because people are problem solving, innovating, and collaborating to make things happen. Some even argue that, throughout history, our very survival and progress have depended on working together.
Some collaborations may be unintentional; others are quite deliberate. Some are modern and supported by Web-enabled technology; others are traditional and draw on community beliefs and customs. Yet despite significant studies into human behavior, our knowledge of deliberate collaborative endeavors is still formative, especially as it applies to large organizations and corporations. Furthermore, the study of collaboration may be about working together, but it isn’t necessarily about working as one.
Adding the phrase “as one” to another word changes its entire meaning. Working versus Working As One. Winning versus Winning As One. Stronger versus Stronger As One. Think of the possibilities. The sources of inspiration are endless. Believing As One. Succeeding As One. “As One behavior” represents something entirely different and distinctive—but not formulaic. We often look for strong and dominant leaders in our working world, but based on what we are learning about collaboration, leadership can come in many different shapes and sizes. It can sometimes be about creativity, empowerment, top-down direction, emergent strategy, strength in numbers, precision, autonomy, as well as hierarchy. It is all about further defining the different shapes and sizes and applying them to your unique situation.
“Working ‘As One’ represents the pinnacle of collective leadership, or leadership that results in a cohesive group of people working together effectively toward a common goal or purpose.”
The previous stories point to the evolving nature of the definition of leadership. Some say leadership is all about productivity. They think a leader’s job is to get people to be on the same page so they work together efficiently. They say a great leader should get people to have a common interpretation around how to work together. Many say leadership is all about people. They say a leader’s job is to develop people’s sense of belonging to their group. They believe a great leader should get people to have a strong shared identity or sense of who they are. Others say leadership is all about purpose. They feel a leader’s job is to drive people’s commitment to act on the goals of the organization. They say a great leader gets people to have a strong sense of directional intensity around what they need to do together.
We believe real leadership involves all these things. We call it working “As One” and we think it represents the pinnacle of collective leadership, or leadership that results in a cohesive group of people working together effectively toward a common goal or purpose.
“Traditionally, management thinkers have approached the world by suggesting a very limited taxonomy, with two ways to generate collective leadership.”
Many of these thinkers and writers tend to regard command-and-control as past its use-by date. But they’ve overlooked the fact that the command-and-control model is highly effective in situations such as emergencies, where a high degree of direction and authority is required. Equally, their description of the new model has encompassed a disparate array of elements, some of which are inconsistent. Moreover, the new model is considered unequivocally good, but we all know that things are never that categorical.
The power of the As One taxonomy stems from its ability to divide the simplistic “traditional” binary groupings—command-and-control and agile-and-adaptive—into eight different categories.
“For the first time, we have the beginnings of a rigorous toolkit for leaders to understand and decide what it means to work As One.”
As One may seem primarily applicable to leaders and their teams, but it doesn’t just have to be about interactions inside organizations. It’s much more than that. The concept is a starting point for all leaders to understand how they can apply specific collective leadership techniques to best fit the situations and challenges they face.
For the first time, we have the beginnings of a rigorous toolkit for leaders to understand and decide what it means to work As One. We have a common language for collective leadership. People need not only to be on the same page but also to be reading the same words.
“Through a common and evolving language and framework of collective leadership, working As One could create a significant difference in our world.”
Around the world, examples of inspirational As One leadership continue to present themselves. As you’ll see, regardless of where you are, the real power of As One happens when the positive one-on-one activities of individuals culminate as something bigger and better. Imagine what we could accomplish if we could unlock the power of As One on a global scale.
Through a common and evolving language and framework of collective leadership, working As One could create a significant difference in our world. This book is an initial contribution to an emerging body of thought.
Mehrdad Baghai is managing director of Alchemy Growth Partners, a boutique advisory firm in Sydney. James Quigley isGlobal CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited. For more information about their book, “AS ONE: Individual Action, Collective Power” (by arrangement with Portfolio, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright Deloitte Global Services Limited, 2011), visit www.asone.org.