Enter the Matrix at Your Own Risk!

I have had many readers ask how well the book LEADERSHIP CONVERSATIONS applies to matrix organizations, because many of the printed examples discuss hierarchical situations. In most matrix situations you, as the leader, have a wider group of stakeholders yet little or no formal authority. Yet, the job must still get done. So the answer is simple: The book is at least as powerful in matrix organizations as it is in hierarchical ones, if not more important.

This is for two reasons:

  1. The central leadership brand of the book – the need to connect, align and inspire – is a universal leadership concept.
  2. In matrix management, because your span of interest is much larger than your span of “control” or direct responsibility, it is even more critical to lead rather than manage others.

Leadership in this case is about attraction – pulling people toward you and your goals.  Management is primarily about guiding others under defined conditions – pushing folks toward the goal. The more people that are involved, the more important it is to pull instead of push!

Let’s look specifically at how a matrix organization relates to all four leadership conversations:

  • Taking Action: In a matrix, actions by others may be less visible to the leader yet must still be taken in concert. Everyone must take responsibility for heightened communication and feedback.
  • Decision Making: You often have more people who need to buy into or at least accept a decision in a matrix organization since most of those directly involved also have bosses to whom they must be accountable for decisions made. They all must believe in these decisions.
  • Developing Others: You also should think of developing others as not just building your employees, but also making sure that everyone with whom you work in the matrix has the knowledge to positively impact your challenges and opportunities. It is also important that you have the information to positively impact their challenges and opportunities.
  • Relationship Building: Your stakeholders tend to be more dispersed geographically in a matrix organization, and thus additional effort is required to create the appropriate number and quality of trusted and transactional relationships. Remember, relationships are the foundation of leadership.

Please let me know if you have any more questions on this or other leadership/management topics.

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