Deloitte consulting exec talks collective leadership
With Ainar Aijala, Global Managing Director, Consulting
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited
Ainar D. Aijala Jr. leads Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited’s global consulting group, which comprises more than 35,000 Deloitte member firm consultants operating in 84 countries around the world.
Mr. Aijala recently co-authored As One, a new book from Deloitte on the merits of collective leadership. Vault spoke with Mr. Aijala on how the As One philosophy applies specifically to consulting, how it is transforming the Deloitte organization, and what consultants can take away from its contents.
Deloitte describes As One as "a new approach to leadership" in business. In short, what's wrong with the current model? Why do businesses need to change?
Seismic shifts in the business environment are fundamentally changing the way we collaborate. These shifts result in numerous challenges for business leaders: the continued globalization of the economy; rapid expansion of the emerging markets; redefinition of the talent pool caused by major demographic shifts; and the increased pace of technological developments. All of these impact the manner in which people collaborate and communicate.
Moreover, leaders are increasingly realizing that their (and their organization’s) success relies on the ability to create the conditions in which their people will choose to commit and work toward shared goals.
At the inception of management consulting, some 60 years ago, the formula for success in organizations was simple and unchallenged: Is the company "willing and able" to perform? Years of boom markets and a focus on speed and change have allowed the market to indulge in just one side of that proven formula. The focus has been on increasing the capability of organizations through strategy, systems, structures, integrations, process improvements, and other ability-enhancing drivers. The assumption has been that, with all of this in place, employees will choose to commit and "be willing" to use these new tools. What has changed is that this choice has to be deliberately supported now. As One has been created to understand and optimize the "willing" side of the equation.
The As One book reveals new approaches to collective leadership. Historically, management theory has typically offered a binary view of leadership—command-and-control vs. collaborative. In reality there are multiple styles of leadership, some or all of which may lead to more effective collaboration, depending on the situation. As One enhances a leader’s ability to rally people behind a common purpose and across a wide range of settings. Through its rich taxonomy of working archetypes, As One provides leaders with a practical tool and a common language for identifying what type of archetype model is most effective in engaging people to work toward defined goals.
The book identifies eight archetypes of employer/employee relationships (General & Soldiers, Senator & Citizens, Captain & Sports team, etc.) and examines the value of each hierarchy. Does one of the eight apply best to the leadership model seen today in the consulting industry?
At Deloitte we have learned that the most common archetype in consulting is the Architect & Builders—a lead partner or firm CEO setting a "blue print" for an outcome and allowing his or her technical professionals to exercise their craft to achieve it.
That said, we are finding that companies in the same industry, or even departments within the same company, can sometimes have differing archetypes. For example, a company most likely will use a different archetype for its compliance department, where they will want their people to follow orders exactly as they are given (e.g., general and soldiers), vs. their product development department, where they are likely to want to promote innovation and creativity by using the architect and builder archetype.
We are also recognizing that clarity and competence play a large role in determining the required leadership environment. Consider a team that is highly competent at its role and very clear about the task and purpose that has been given to it. The way to lead this team and maximize its performance is by leaving the team members alone and empowering them to innovate and adapt. If, however ,that team is assigned to a new project that requires skills and knowledge it has less experience with, the conditions for its success change. The team demands more instruction, direction, and supervision until it acquires a sufficient amount of clarity and competence. Thus we can see how the leadership style required to lead a professional team evolves with the nature of tasks given to it.
What is problematic about the structure of leadership in the modern consulting industry and how can As One improve that structure?
The core product of a consulting firm is knowledge combined with track record. And success is often geared to tenure and scale of engagements. Thus we have evolved a model for consulting firms where the hierarchy of control is also a structure of achievement and rewards. In many firms, this can lead to leaders being selected and promoted for their technical achievements and not necessarily for their ability to lead other professionals. We have learned that the most successful organizations are those in which the leaders are "creating" the conditions for their people to succeed, not "being" those conditions themselves. The study of collective leadership asks what conditions need to be in place for the largest populations of staff to succeed and choose to commit to supporting each other to achieve common goals. We are learning that the structure of a successful professional services firm of the future will be more geared to achieving the needs of these professionals rather than geared to control structures.
With the As One tool and the capability, we can see a more accurate means of understanding the needs of a professional services environment as its market and performance changes over time. For example, we have learned from our own experience how to more accurately "free-up" junior professionals in high-performance environments as well as provide the requested "command and control" when required for professionals in new product areas or challenging markets or situations of crisis.
Deloitte member firms have had many opportunities to apply the As One method to companies across the world. What steps has the Deloitte network itself taken to implement the method? What kinds of results has the organization seen from it?
Fourteen Deloitte member firms have applied the As One method to support their own success. At Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL), we have also applied it to the highest population of global leaders of the organization to test and set the firm's global strategy. The Deloitte global CEO himself has adopted this as his prime tool to lead and align the entire organization.
Deloitte member firms express that As One contributes to their bottom line in a range of ways. From helping to prioritize the focus for development initiatives, to a more prescriptive schedule, to budgeting for the rollout of a strategy—not to mention the value of aiding in the retention and engagement of staff.
One member firm pioneered application of the diagnostic, using it to set and fine tune its strategy and culture. A year later, it conducted the survey again to uncover the significant improvement in its performance and operating culture. This successful case example has led a dozen of our largest member firms to adopt the tool as an internal performance driver.
Will clients of Deloitte member firms soon see some of the As One methods applied to their organizations? Will the implementation of collective leadership be a goal for management consultants of the future?
DTTL created a new dedicated center—Deloitte Center for Collective Leadership—whose purpose is to understand and advance the knowledge and research on the rapidly emerging field of collective leadership. The center also develops and accredits Deloitte member firms’ many leading consulting practitioners throughout the world. As part of this initiative, Deloitte member firms now have active centers of excellence in As One in Europe, the United States, Latin America, Canada, South Africa, and Asia Pacific. This is a global community of over 300 Deloitte member firm professionals who are linked through an effective knowledge- and resource-sharing network.
We believe this growing community of As One practitioners will deliver superior benefits to Deloitte member firm clients through their ability to help them sustain their organizations, grow more efficiently, and compete more effectively in an increasingly global, diverse, and competitive marketplace.
The book’s target audience appears to be business leaders; are there any lessons that a typical employee—say an analyst or associate at a consulting firm—could take away from the wisdoms contained within?
Concepts included in the book apply to both employees and leaders. By understanding the prevalent leader-follower style in their organizations, employees can create a framework of behavior that will contribute to a successful career.
Collective leadership examines the conditions in which individuals choose to collaborate toward common goals. As One principles guide each employee to contribute to a higher intent, beyond his or her role. Innovation, creativity, cooperation, and group efficiency are all outcomes of strong collective performance.
As One offers employees a means to understand, adapt, and perform in their own unique working environment. It also provides a language and structure for those that choose to collaborate, enjoy, and succeed in working together.
For more information:
Deloitte: As One press room