The Co-Created Leadership and Employee Voice Element
It is unsurprising that enlightened leadership often plays a key role in driving workplace innovation within enterprises. Leadership theory is highly contested but leadership development has gained increasing prominence through business schools, professional institutions and consultancy.
Early leadership theories were primarily focused on the distinction between “task focus” and “people orientation” and this remains a useful distinction. More recently theories are less concerned with the central, charismatic individual but focus on leadership as a creative and collective process where leadership is co-created through dialogue with and between employees and where employees are empowered to take initiative and contribute to decision making. “Shared and distributed leadership” is a key element of workplace innovation because it focuses on releasing the full range of employee knowledge, skills, experience and creativity. It means that workplace culture and practice provides everyone with the opportunity to take the lead in areas which reflect their own expertise or initiative, whether strategic, innovative or operational, while understanding and aligning their actions with those of others.
Leadership is therefore a collaborative, or Co-Created process. It is not dependent on individual charisma or authority but creates shared direction and purpose through organisation-wide opportunities for strategic thinking, shared reflection and learning, and employee voice in decision-making.
Employee Voice describes the alignment of strategic priorities and decision-making at senior levels with the practical knowledge, experience and engagement of employees throughout the organisation. It brings together direct participation through, for example, self-managed teams and improvement groups, with representative participation in the form of employee or union-management partnership forums. These represent times and spaces where senior managers and trade unions or employee representatives get together to tackle big issues in a climate of openness and trust.
When partnership arrangements exist alongside the types of participative workplace practices described in the previous three Elements it creates a system of mutually reinforcing practices leading to improved information sharing, greater levels of trust, reduced resistance to change and heightened performance.
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What leadership roles and behaviours are needed?
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