Solo Leadership Builds Silos

Solo Leadership Builds Silos

Solo leadership is another way to describe strong traditional or highly hierarchical leadership. Too often this style of leadership is still found in organizations today. It is a leadership style in which all major decision or approvals within the work environments are driven from a leader in the organization, and in many instances, this individual fills the top company position.

The Solo Leader

Solo leadership like solo sports have similar characteristics. For example, mountain climbing is a solo sport.  The performance and the outcomes of the climber’s performance depends on the individual making unilateral decisions. Their skills, talents, abilities are used to accomplish their goal of climbing the mountain without assistance from others during the climb.

Mountain climbing, like solo leadership, both depend on the work intelligence, training, and a well-developed knowledge base to make decisions that will contribute to and benefit the work at hand. 

The success of an organization is often measured from the viewpoint of the solo leader, just like with the mountain climber. Both filter the environment to make decisions that they feel will be best for each situation. They do not seek input from others when there are challenges or problems. A solo leader’s view of success may differ from the people around them, but in mindset of solo leadership there is only one view that matters, and that is the view of the leader.

The Transformational Leader

The opposite of a solo leader is a transformational leader. A transformational leader engages, values, and depends on input from others to enhance decision making; and seeks perspectives daily from others. Approvals of plans, strategies, and initiatives are leveraged with diverse perspectives. A transformational leader is comfortable in collaborative partnerships to allow growth and learning of one’s self and others to take place. Transformational leaders encourage questions and foster a culture of thinking outside the box.


Characteristics of Solo vs. Transformational Leadership:

Solo Leadership       vs.        Transformational Leadership

Closed communication       vs.       Open communication

Compartmentalization        vs.       Transparency  

Dictatorial leadership “Do as I say.”       vs.       Collaborative Leadership “What do you say?”

Closed decision making       vs.       Input from other encouraged

Recognition at top       vs.       Recognition spread among all colleagues

Trust only at top       vs.       Trust part of culture

Comradery among few       vs.       Camaraderie throughout organization

Answers from top       vs.       Answers from all layers of organization

Nonrelational       vs.       Highly relational

Silos are common       vs.       Silos break down

A Siloed Culture

When decisions are made by a select few or a single leader without engaging and soliciting input from others, silos are formed in organizations. This silo culture will trickle down and is modeled throughout the organization. To state simply, silos creates more silos in organizations.

The problem with Silos is people will interact poorly with each other because information is not shared. Silos can become like a fortress in organizations and cause wasted time, depleted energy, and impede daily operations.

Poor communication and lost transparency will cause silos to build. People within silos then become more committed to their own area or department than the organization. This creates a resistance to change from people when the drive for change comes from outside the silo. One of the most detrimental results from silos is the lack of innovation, creativity, and sharing among colleagues in organizations.

Relational Leadership

Ultimately the feeling of not being valued by leadership or colleagues is felt in a culture that is riddled with silos. In majority of organizations, the value of the relationships between individual colleagues can make the difference in the quality of service provided. Relational leadership aligns with transformational leadership. For example, an excellent restaurant spends a great portion of time educating and sharing thoughts and ideas from the cooks to waiters around how to improve and sustain excellent service to their guest. The frontline customer staff and the kitchen staff are directly depended on each other. Open communication, trust, transparency, colleague input and suggestions are vital to the success of the operations. Everyone feels valued and works for the best for restaurant and customers.

Silos can raise their walls anytime in an organization when leaders begin to take unilateral actions in solving problems, and withhold information from colleagues. This solo leadership style can create a lot of damage to the culture, and needs to be immediately addressed by transformational leaders.

The leadership principle to remember is: When leaders go solo, silos follow. It takes a structured environment to support open transparent communication, and it takes open minds, and the understanding of the value that colleagues bring to the table in improving, innovating, and creating a quality organization. But the work pays off in great dividends, and will be the difference between mediocrity and an organization of excellence.

Silo Breakers

Learn more about knocking down silos and creating organizations of excellence in my two books: The Culture Cure: Transforming the Modern Healthcare System, and The Culture Cure Mastermind Guide for Healthcare Transformation. Use them to become the change you want to see in healthcare today.

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