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date: 28 June 2022

The Meta-Leadership Model for Crisis Leadershiplocked

The Meta-Leadership Model for Crisis Leadershiplocked

  • Eric J. McNulty, Eric J. McNultyProgram for Health Care Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Leonard Marcus, Leonard MarcusNational Preparedness Leadership Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Jennifer O. Grimes, Jennifer O. GrimesHarvard University
  • Joseph HendersonJoseph HendersonNational Preparedness Leadership Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  •  and Richard SerinoRichard SerinoNational Preparedness Leadership Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Summary

Meta-leadership is a framework and practice method for broad, overarching leadership that meets the demands of modern organizations that have evolved beyond purely hierarchical structures and face complex crisis situations. The meta-leadership framework consists of three dimensions: the Person, or the characteristics and behaviors of the leader; the Situation, or the context in which the leader operates with its inherent challenges and contingencies; and Connectivity, the relationships and interconnections among the full range of stakeholders. Such an overarching model guides self-assessment by the leader, multidimensional analysis of the problem, and collective action to achieve a shared goal. It assists the leader in navigating complexity, understanding diverging perspectives, and recognizing opportunities to leverage overlapping interests as well as distinct capacities and capabilities among stakeholders in order to generate benefits for all. Using the dimensions as lenses for thinking and levers of action, the leader envisages and encourages cohesive efforts within the organization and encourages buy-in from potential external collaborators.

Meta-leaders take a systemic view, exercising formal authority as well as influence well beyond that authority, leading “down” to subordinates; “up” to superiors; “across” to peers; and “beyond” to entities outside of the organization. Encompassed within each dimension are leadership techniques and tools for navigating the difficulties of competing interests, framing solution sets to influence the trajectory of events, and maintaining order amidst seeming chaos. The desired outcome is a “swarm,” where autonomous entities operate in swift synchrony to address threats and seize opportunities, overcoming the limitations and confounds of a “command-and-control” approach amidst the confusion of crises. This evidence-based framework has been envisioned and refined by both interdisciplinary research and the pragmatic experience of crisis leaders and organizational executives. While well suited to the intense environment of crises, meta-leadership has also proven useful in everyday leadership in situations involving diverse stakeholders facing a shared challenge.

Subjects

  • Contentious Politics and Political Violence
  • Policy, Administration, and Bureaucracy

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