In global matrix organizations, acting as a project leader or a consultant often involves leading and motivating teams without having formal hierarchal authority. In order to ease the process and help interdisciplinary teams to improve their performance, a designated leader can be inspired by the complex leadership framework. This framework presents leadership as the creation of an enabling interactive dynamic from which adaptive outcomes like learning, innovation, and adaptability can emerge.
The complex leadership theory identifies three broad types of leadership: (1) administrative leadership based on hierarchy, (2) enabling leadership, which facilitates the creation of favorable conditions for a team to optimally address problem solving, and (3) adaptive leadership, which is emerging from an informal generative group dynamic. Since a project leader has often no formal administrative power over the team members, he or she needs to be able to position him/herself in ways that influence their performance toward the desired outcomes. This while navigating the formal reporting lines and corporate priorities of the organization.
Creating and maintaining an optimal group dynamic is a key component to optimize team performance. Regarding that aspect, the selection of the team members is an important factor to consider. In fact, teams composed of individuals that are interdependent (e.g. they face a common challenge) but also diverse in their knowledge and expertise, are likely to be more productive to identify adaptive solutions. Once the right team is in place, the leader must learn to catalyze the informal emergence of “problem-solving networks” within his team. This can be done by facilitating formal and informal interactions between the team members, but also allowing external input. The goal here is to make sure creativity and knowledge can co-exist in a safe and transparent environment. In addition, a project leader must be able to coordinate the environment by removing operational constraints and roadblocks that could discourage or limit the action of the project team. To this end, project management tools (e.g. project plans, risk register, Gantts, etc) can be used to map, foresee and mitigate the emergence of such constrains and to improve the efficiency of the team. However, since a too rigid management can also put creativity at risk, some flexibility should be allowed by the leader to accommodate project changes, unforeseen new circumstances and potential innovations coming from the team members.