Blog Feature
Mike Abrashoff

By: Mike Abrashoff on June 25th, 2013

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The Bossless, Not Leaderless, Office

Leadership | Organizational Culture

Matthew Shaer recently wrote an article in New York Magazine entitled The Boss Stops Here discussing the current state of flatter-transparent organizations and the evolution of bossless environments.

This topic was picked up by NPR’s OnPoint radio show where I was a guest last week—needless to say we had quite an interesting conversation regarding this topic.

As you may recall from my stories in It’s Your Ship, the military invented and perfected the top-down command and control environment, but I don’t think it works anymore with today’s workforce. Not only are we more globalized, but with social media and the Internet we now are privy to what’s going on in every other organization. Our people are also much more demanding. They want more than just a job, they want a work experience. In my experience, I found that a top-down approach just doesn’t inspire commitment, it doesn’t create cohesion, and it doesn’t get the results we need to stay ahead in our competitive world.

Years ago even before hearing the term “bossless” while in command of USS Benfold, I began to transform my leadership style to do just that—be a leader, not a boss. I partnered with my crew to create an environment fueled by three key attributes: trust, ownership and no fear. These attributes created the foundation for our success and much to my surprise were the highlights in today’s discussion. On Benfold I often said “Its Your Ship,” signaling to the crew that they had the responsibility and the power to be their own boss. It was up to all of us to create the workplace of our choice—not just mine.

Let’s get one thing straight—a bossless organization is not a leaderless one. Leadership is about setting the tone and direction for the entire team, division and organization that makes it possible for bossless to become a reality. Only when you combine great leadership with direction and a great culture can you unleash the talent, innovation and accountability of your people. This potent combination is the fuel that will drive your people’s productivity, performance and ultimately your bottom line.

At the end of the day a bossless leader drives the creation of a workplace where everyone shows up as owners. You’ll see your team come together in an environment where each and every team member has each other’s backs and being the best is their only objective.