To Become a Better Leader, Get Out of Your Box

Thinking Outside The Box Concept

Most organizations still exist inside the big box that is defined by their organization chart. And within that big box, there exists many more interconnected boxes. Some organizations have tried to get rid of these boxes, for example replacing them with circles, but these are still boxes, albeit without the edges.

BoxesHierarchyBeing the head of a box is a goal that many people have, but only some achieve. The heads of each box talk to each other about strategy and tactics, the really important stuff, while the rest of the box inhabitants get to do the real work. Trouble sometimes takes the form of a lower level box not adequately serving a higher level box, and even boxes that are on the same level can have their differences, such as when a “service” box does not pay enough attention to a “production” box.

In organizations where the boxes are in conflict, leaders have several options:

  • Start doing something new that will improve the situation
  • Eliminate what isn’t working
  • Preserve what is working
  • Accept what you can’t change and live with it

Doing some or all of the above requires the leader to get out of their box and lead the way towards a brighter future. And that’s not easy, because some people will want to drag you back into your box because they feel…it’s safer there, the other folks should leave their box and come to ours, people who leave the box are not loyal, and so on.

To become a better leader, you need to develop the courage to spend as much time outside your box as you do inside it. Being an exemplary role model in this way will encourage those other box inhabitants of yours to spend more time outside too. In fact, make inter-box communication and collaboration a performance requirement and include it on performance appraisals. The benefits can be immense:

  • People learn more about the work of the other boxes
  • People appreciate and value the work done by people in the other boxes
  • People trust each other more
  • Friendships emerge (this is a key factor in employee engagement)
  • Problems get solved with less formal effort, and sometimes even get averted
  • Any hint of one box being subservient to another gets demolished
  • People gain a better view of the bigger picture and the interconnectedness of the boxes
  • People help each other out without being told to do so
  • People are less bored with work
  • Workplace (psychosocial) health improves

No doubt you can add more benefits to this! Feel free to add them below…

  • Amy Saunders says:

    Well, well.. guess what? I think this article has inspired me to consult an expert some time later so we could come up with a collective and effective strategy eventually. Well if you must know, I’ve been asked to mentor a few interns in my company for a few months and in the end I must select one of them to lead the marketing department. I found it quite intriguing when you stated that creativity and critical thinking are some of the fundamental values a leader must possess to move an organization forward.

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