The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Expertise and leadership

The ability to work on projects interconnecting more and more domains, transform the way people can work together. The knowledge needed for such projects often exceeds the knowledge available within one organization. Specific areas of expertise come into play and need to be integrated into the project.

Projects then become a way of working together that invites experts into the project only when needed. Few of them will stay available for the duration of the project.

While it is very much possible to deal with such projects, it does impact team dynamics and the way teams will be able to perceive themselves as teams.

The experts who step in, need to find a way into the team. Whereas the team needs to develop a way to involve new members allowing for a trustful relationship. Shifts in the team structure always disrupt the sense of team the group has.

A changing constellation of existing relationships comes along with a shift in the resulting power dynamics. It transforms the roles the individual members feel ok to take up.

There is nothing unusual about this, it’s the way humans relate to one another. However, it is often pushed aside assuming that having a common task will be enough for the group to stay on task. This may sometimes work out very well, whenever experts come into a team, the situation is slightly different.

By definition of their expertise, they automatically have some leadership role. They have the knowledge the team depends on. The challenge thus becomes to involve the expert in such a way that he can get all the data he needs to use his expertise at its best. But also, for the team to stay able to ask the relevant questions. They have to know that the work done contributes to the goal the team has been defining before the expert joined in and wants to reach whenever he is gone.

There is some subtle work to be done. One that acknowledges existing dependencies without transforming them into obligations or blind followership.

There are two leaderships. One dealing with the execution of the task given to the expert. And the one responsible for the overall goal of the project and dealing with and establishing human connections. Both need to work hand in hand.

Eventually, it will transform our understanding of what leadership is.


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