I work with many CEOs who’ve chosen to bring Holacracy into their organization, and they often face a real challenge: conventionally, the CEO holds the vision and helps orchestrate the whole organization around it. Yet with Holacracy, the process itself does a lot of that. There is still a need for what the CEO is doing as a spokesperson and champion of that vision, but Holacracy changes how CEOs fundamentally influence others in order to have them align around that vision.
The real challenge is to differentiate how they champion the vision from how they exert authority and attempt to align others. There’s a need to figure out how to still do what they do, without exerting power and influence the way they’re used to.
CEOs are often the ones with the most power to unknowingly undermine what they’re intending to do by bringing in Holacracy. The risk is for them to collapse back to the conventional way they’ve held power and influenced others — even with the best of intentions, while genuinely trying to help align others with the vision.
To avoid that, CEOs can learn new approaches and use alternate pathways to influence others while still holding their critical function of championing the vision. It’s a fascinating journey. There are definitely many ways it can go wrong, which can end up causing inadvertent harm.
The good news is that usually CEOs interested in bringing Holacracy to their company in the first place are up for this challenge. One of my favorite parts of my job is helping CEOs find new ways to show up in their organization, and do what they do best without falling back to previous conventional habits. Instead, they learn new habits that are more effective and powerful with Holacracy at play. They can still be a spokesperson for the organization’s broader vision, and that function often ends up in just another role.
Ultimately, you don’t need a CEO. You need a bunch of different roles, and the (former) CEO fills many of them. They’re now part of the team, influencing the organization through Holacracy, which is a pretty cool transformation to follow.
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