Take the “Quantum Leap” to Effective Leadership
There’s a constant need for companies to be agile and innovative to stay ahead of the curve. However, very few organizations have actually made amends to their management approach and traditional organizational structures to empower employees and improve team dynamics.
I stumbled upon an interesting and unique take on leadership by Instagram’s Head Engineer on how he uses Principles of Quantum Mechanics to manage his team and found it extremely fascinating. To me, his management style encompasses a lot of the theories of Adaptive Leadership and how organizations can leverage it to drive growth and boost productivity within teams. Adaptive leadership can bring a new consciousness in business, lead to meaningful connections within teams and facilitate differentiation.
1) Define Critical Mass within teams — Managers often believe that adding more members to a team would increase efficiency, especially in times of growth. However, bigger teams tend to lose acceleration with time, leading to slower decision making and longer time spent per task. Critical Mass refers to the “minimum amount of something to produce a given effect.” This is also very similar to designing a machine which entails fewer dependencies, single owners, and minimal decision points. Applying these same principles and reducing the number of links between people while setting up a team can significantly boost productivity, output and happiness. Smaller teams move faster, iterate at a higher frequency, and innovate more for the company.
2) Assume a ‘Superposition’ — ‘Superposition’ is a fundamental principle of Quantum Physics which states that if an object is in an undisturbed state, it can exist in all possible states simultaneously, thereby leading to more than one outcome. To me, this is synonymous to how creativity is fostered within teams. If a manager assumes a’superposition’ all paths to success are possible and a quantum manager would enable as many different paths forward. However, in the process of adding value, managers often assume “super-imposition” wherein leaders exert their power upon teams which limits creativity and the number of potential outcomes. As soon as a chain of authority is introduced, ideas no longer stand on their own merit. If the team hits a roadblock, a quantum leader should be an observer, provide a cue, and let the team collaborate. The leader should embrace the idea of uncertainty and allow for unpredictable outcomes.
3) Encourage Quantum Entanglement — Another principle called The Theory of Quantum Entanglement talks about how basic particles are linked together in a way that when something happens to one particle, it also impacts the other particle. This reminds me of the age-old adage that “Success breeds Success”. We often see this social cohesion and chain reaction within teams wherein progress is accelerated when something positive is set into motion. A quantum leader fosters mutual understanding by propelling empathy and empowering team members to do better. Leaders should identify different entanglement triggers (positive traits) for their team and propel them to boost progress and morale.
4) Evolve with time — This is similar to designing a machine, which constantly evolves with technology and time. A good quantum manager will self-reflect and seek constant feedback from people outside of his/her management circle to adapt and evolve.
All in all, these theories tell us how everything in the world is indeed connected and that an efficient manager has incredible power to influence outcomes. Adaptive leadership is truly about managing the context, and not a coaching manual. In a world where all environments are so unique and unpredictable, it’s imperative to possess a combination of skills and perspectives that can enable true excellence.
I believe the most important trait for adaptive leadership is humility. It allows leaders to be receptive to different viewpoints. Demonstrating modesty and self-limitation to create opportunities for others to initiate, can also have surprisingly delightful outcomes. I do believe that technical leadership can solve problems, but an adaptive approach will help a leader mitigate or anticipate any potential challenges, proving to be more effective in the long run.
Lastly, building sustainable teams on the concept of collaboration and compassion will ensure higher quotients of happiness. Sometimes taking a step back, zooming out and not suggesting an idea, can lead to an extraordinary one.