Generative Leadership© and the Expansion of Accountability

The intention of this document is to roughly distinguish a model for the organizational structure which will reliably generate leadership throughout the organization.  By generating leadership in the organization, the future of the organization will be supported, alignment and partnership will be assured, and teams will form that support both the intended outcomes of projects and the overall commitments of the organization as a whole

The historical model of organizational structure is a Hierarchical system where all authority rests with the “boss” or leader of the organization.  Authority to hire fire, direct, create and manage may be delegated to different extents and still, it is fully held at the top of the organizational structure.  This has historically worked adequately in environments where the way to accomplish organizational objectives is already known and clearly visible.  It can allow for effective management of what the bosses know how to do.  There are places where this may be the most effective structure for an organization.  It is however taken for granted in many organizations that this is how it’s done, and, in some environments, it leaves much to be desired.

It is not predictable in a strictly hierarchical organization that new leaders will rise from within the organization.  In fact, if an organization is doing most of its hiring of leadership from outside the organization, it should be taken as an indication that the structure is hierarchical and that it is falling into this trap.  People, who are not empowered, rarely rise to take on new responsibilities effectively.  If leaders are being promoted within the organization and are not generally successful, again, it should be taken as an indication that for this organization, hierarchical leadership is failing to meet the organization’s needs for growth and scalability. 


In a hierarchical organization, creative problem-solving is generally limited to the domain of a few key individuals thereby limiting access to creative thought from the general population.

As such, often the few do not have access to the insight, which may be available from the many.  In contrast, when everyone is engaged in the commitments of the organization and accountable for its success, all eyes are open to anything that does not work.

In a Generative Leadership© organization, every member of the organization sees the objects as their own, contributes their own perspective, is developed as a leader/manager, and most importantly, understands the impact of her/his role and contribution to the work of the greater team. Predictably, turnover is low, engagement is high, commitments are made freely, problems are revealed early, solutions are identified, and future leaders rise in the organization making it both sustainable and scalable.


Note: when all members of the team are engaged in a project as a personal commitment, there is the evidence: 

During a visit to the NASA space center in 1962, American President John F. Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man, and said, “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?”

“Well, Mr. President,” the janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”


Let’s review the issues of a pure hierarchical structure first:

  • In this structure, the absolute limit on the commitment that individual participants can make to the organization is a commitment to doing what they are told
    • This compliance can come from many sources
      • A desire to advance one’s career or simply, to stay employed
      • A pattern or training in deference or obedience
      • A belief that one’s bosses are one’s “superiors” with respect to the task at hand
      • A desire to be perfect, a cog in a machine
  • At every level in the organization, and in every goal of the organization, the method is not questioned
    • Unquestioned there is little opportunity for the evolution of process outside what is seen by the ruling party or parties
    • “Blind spots”, whatever the limits or constraints on Bosses, ability to see every option, those constraints will affect every operation
    • In these environments, Homogeneous teams tend to rise based on the tendency to look at things from one perspective
      • Limited resources in Homogeneous teams
      • No mandate to examine
  • In an organization like this, the limit to what is possible for the organization is the limit of the perspective of the people in charge. 
    • There is no room for a vision to be expanded by the perspective of other members
    • That which cannot be seen, cannot be aimed at, strived for, or committed to
    • There is what we can see and nothing else.

The Generative Leadership©, model offers an alternative approach that addresses these concerns.

In Generative Leadership©, each layer of the organization is accountable for the results of the layer below and that of itself and is committed to the results of the organization. 

In each position, there is a focus on results and those results are measured by clearly delineated criteria.  The specific method is not indicated. 

In every position, leadership has the choice to do what is known or to accomplish the results by some other means. In other words, to invent the way in which results will be achieved.  In our experience, given the real opportunity to create means for achieving results, teams will develop which will come to innovate, developing new ways of achieving the desired objective (producing the expected results).  The result of this is that leadership, appears at every level of the organization.

Requirements for Generative Leadership©

For Generative Leadership© to be highly successful there are certain conditions the presence of which is required.  Those include but may not be limited to:

  • Leadership Requirements:
    • Vision– Organizational leadership creates a vision for the future that it is committed to, this vision must be communicated within the organization
      • This vision must be associated with specific outcomes
      • The outcomes must be measurable against time
    • Enrollment– Members of the organization, particularly those accountable for leading or managing teams must be aware of the overall vision and must have a personal nvestment in its success. 
      • They must see this vision as possible and be committed wihtin it to the success of their individual accountability
      • They must be personally committed to the fulfillment of the vision itself, thus the vision is now a shared vision.
      • When enrollment is complete every team member at every level is committed that the result, (the fulfillment of the shared vision) be achieved, as THEIR PERSONAL COMMITMENT
    • Integrity, leaders must have the integrity necessary to stay committed in the presence of real challenges and the threat of possible failure. 
  • Communication Requirements:    
    • An approach to communication that generates commitment, where in everyone know what they can expect from whom and when (committed Communication)
    • A safe environment for communicating doubt, concern or anything that shows up as a challenge to the success of the project, (breakdowns)
  • Management requirements:
    • A systematic approach to identifying all known actions and tracking them against time
    • A method for evaluating progress towards the intended outcomes that identifies when the project is “on track” and “off track”
    • A condition or communication environment that empowers all participants to identify anything that has the project, “off-track”
      • Anything that threatens to take the project off track should also be considered as one of these conditions
      • From here on we will refer to these as “threats”.
    • A process for bringing threats to the team that supports their resolution
    • A systematic approach to threat resolution
  • Employee Development requirements
    • A Generative Leadership environment both requires and develops people who are motivated by their own desire to accomplish
    • The development of employees is the expansion of capacity for the organization as a whole
    • Turnover will tend to be low among desirable employees
    • Poor hires will opt out or reveal themselves quickly

So, starting here, we have an unusual organization capable of things that few are.  And now we proceed.  In Generative Leadership©, what is delegated is never a task.  What is delegated is the result.  The individual accountable for producing a result, have the freedom and support needed to:

  • Use existing and familiar techniques, those that have been used before within the organization
  • Learn from others, how they would handle the process of producing the results that have been delegated
  • Invent new techniques systems or technology to produce the results.
  • Any combination of the above.

An important distinction to understand is that in a Generative environment when results are delegated, the people to whom this responsibility is delegated do not simply “feel responsible,” they are responsible. 

This creates an environment where committed people work together to accomplish what they are committed to accomplishing. They innovate as needed, request support as needed, and are measured by the results that they produce.  In a more common, pure hierarchical organization, subordinates do what they are told to do, or what they understand they must.  In a Generative Leadership© organization, team members produce results to satisfy their own needs to do so.  A generative organization works for the people who work there, as much as they work for the organization.

Related Posts