Does a team always have to have a leader? I asked this question at recent team coaching workshop. The reaction from fellow participants was thoughtful if generally negative. Some said that the team would be rudderless. Others said all groups need leaders, how else would you get anything done?
This interesting article from the Drucker Foundation 2001 explores the impact when an orchestra – the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra – chose not to have a conductor. Obviously in a team the conductor is the equivalent of the usual business leader, carrying the responsibility for output and performance on his or her broad shoulders so the experiment excited the interest of greats like Drucker. In the article, members of the orchestra observed that the results were surprising. Far from losing direction, turn over, engagement and performance all remained good in spite of the absence of the leadership role.
Further, in 2007 Wiki notes: March 2007, [that] Orpheus became one of the first winners of the Worldwide Award for the Most Democratic Workplaces sponsored by WorldBlu, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based organization specializing in organizational democracy.
Now in 2019 the leaderless orchestra is still going strong. Some argue that their music is better for not being beholden to the over-ruling decision-making of the conductor’s interpretation. You can make your own mind up with some of these clips of their performances on the BBC.
Would your team be better if it were a bit less led?