Over 20 years ago, author Sally Helgesen shared her theory of organizational structure in her book The Web of Inclusion and it still has relevance today. She contrasted the traditional hierarchical model with a web organizational model, maintaining that the later provided more strength and engagement for all involved.

Picture the traditional model – all in boxes – vs. a web model where there is complexity and interconnectedness. The traditional model has only one “Big Cheese” whereas in the web everyone has influence and can lead from the middle. Straight line communication is contrasted with collaboration and interdependence. In the hierarchy, the top leader is the focus whereas in the web model the organization revolves around its purpose.

Ideally, the entire organization would be structured around a web model, but if your leaders aren’t that enlightened yet, think about what you could do to create such a framework in your area of influence. How can you become an “organizational spider” and weaver those connections within your community? What mission or purpose remains in the center of your “web”? Who are other “spiders” who have the potential to help you build webs? (Never underestimate anyone!)

You also need to be on guard for “arachnophobia” and pay attention to people who want to kill the change-making spiders or who simply resist change. Not everyone will embrace the web-making so it’s important to have the persistence of the Itsy Bitsy Spider who kept climbing that water spout over and over.

In the end, empowering others to be part of a web lends strength and purpose to everyone. It’s worth the effort to weave – one strand at a time.

Fond memories Tracy!

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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