Connected Leadership and the end of command-and-control

30 December 2016 -


The latest in our Management Book of the Year series

By Management Book of the Year shortlisted author Simon Hayward

I have worked in the field of leadership development for almost 30 years. During that time I’ve seen a great deal of change.

When I first started working as a consultant, most organisations were still very hierarchical. There were a lot of ‘hero’ leaders around – people who single-handedly set the tone, and took all the decisions. Many created a great deal of dependency and stifled the people around them.

Then the world changed. Things started to become a lot more unpredictable. We had a digital revolution. A financial crisis. The pace of change increased. Leaders had to change too.

Much of the focus of leadership development over the last two decades has been on developing inspirational or transformational leaders. Today’s unpredictable world demands a more inclusive and less individualistic style.

This encourages a positive culture in which people are motivated to give their best, leading to increased levels of employee wellbeing and engagement. This in turn leads to improved productivity, and people choosing to take increased responsibility.

Command-and-control leadership still prevails, but it is failing us. Rather than relying on people at the top of an organisation, we need to devolve decision making across the business. I became fascinated by this and decided to make it the focus of my doctoral research over five years at Alliance Manchester Business School.

The rigour of academic research enabled me to create a model of Connected Leadership. This is centred around becoming more values-based, more collaborative, and sharing responsibility.

Working in partnership with clients, I was able to further develop the model and ensure it could be successfully applied in the real world. I worked more and more with clients who were keen to develop agility in order to respond to rapidly changing markets and customer needs, and who realised they needed to move decision-making closer to the customer.

I witnessed the demands of leadership changing very significantly. I observed that most successful leaders connect people across organisations to strategic goals and to customers by developing a shared agenda through purpose, direction and values.

They encourage a culture of collaboration. They stimulate a high degree of empowerment and trust that each person and team will perform to the best of their ability. They increase agility through developing a learning culture that drives innovation and ruthless prioritisation.

Values and authenticity are extremely important to them.

I have been impressed by leaders who are genuine role models. When leaders behave in ways that show how much they prize integrity, organisational culture tends to reflect this. It is more likely that people across the business will deliver on their promises to each other and to customers.


Dr Simon Hayward is author of Connected Leadership: How to build a more agile, customer-driven business, which is shortlisted in the Management Futures category of the 2017 Management Book of the Year.

His personal website is and he tweets at @simonjhayward

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