Leaderless teams are a concept that organizations such as Toyota have had great success with. Yet organizations still can't shake the old hierarchical concepts.
Enter Ken Thompson. Thompson has made a career out of studying nature with the purpose of learning how geese, penguins, ants, bees, dolphins, and other creatures communicate and accomplish their significant "projects" in the form of leaderless teams.
For instance, when geese change formation, it's often because the leader no longer knows where to go, so another goose needs to take over. Collectively, they know how to reach their destination. It's the same with migrating penguins. Each contributor is responsible for communicating key messages, taking over when needed, and acting in what they feel is in the best interest of the group.
This certainly has implications on the role of the project manager. I'm not saying the PM role isn't required, but the role could certainly be reframed or rethought in this context. It would be quite an interesting study.
The link below contains a 15 minute video interview with Thompson, where he explains the BioTeam approach. Also, visit his website at http://www.bioteams.com/. There are some fascinating articles there that offer new perspectives on team dynamics, virtual teaming, and virtual networks. For more on the leaderless approach, also check out the book, The Starfish and the Spider, by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom, which I blogged about last year on PMThink.
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