Symbiotic Leadership is a rare, highly-evolved set of behaviours that leads to sustainability and satisfaction throughout the organisation. In times of increasing democratisation, employees are less and less willing to tolerate the win-lose styles of leadership and management. Common examples would be "Mushroom Leadership" and "Seagull Leadership". With Mushroom Leadership, the leader keeps the team in the dark about everything, and feeds them detritus. This is typified by a "need to know" policy of information sharing. Seagull Leadership is much more dynamic. Here, the leader occasionally flies in, makes a LOT of noise, poops over everything and everyone, then flies out again.
Both Mushroom and Seagull leadership strategies are based on the Parasite-Host paradigm so prevalent in Nature. It takes a highly-evolved approach to rise above this primal state, and seek, instead, a model for ongoing sustainability. Symbiosis is one such model. In Symbiosis, both organisms benefit from the relationship. Examples in Nature include the Oxpecker and the Rhino. Oxpeckers are small birds that perch on the backs of the larger, dangerous Rhino (or Zebra, or Buffalo) and eat the ticks that annoy the Rhino. The Oxpecker gets a meal and a ride, the Rhino gets rid of that itch. In all symbiotic relationships that I know of, the two parties cover different areas - they are not the same. Instead, their complementary behaviours or resources benefit both parties. In a similar way, Symbiotic Leaders do not need to be the same as their staff - equality of worth in the relationship doesn't require the parties to be identical. The roles and actions may be very different - but together they are better for the interaction.
Win-Win or no deal
The late, great Stephen Covey championed the cause of win-win or no deal. This is a key leadership behaviour if we are to be highly effective. It is also the motto of the Symbiotic Leader. The Symbiotic Leader is always looking for the win - the mutual win - the synergy where the combined actions of both parties leads to more than that which could be achieved individually, alone.
Developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, Situational Leadership is a great example of symbiotic behaviours. Here, the leader adapts and adjusts to match the follower's level of readiness - with a view to an enhanced outcome.
Parasite, Host, or Symbiont?
It's time for a judgment call. With so many well-branded businesses failing, sustainability is a necessity, not a luxury. Those of us who choose to play the role of either parasite or host are equally accountable. Choosing the win-win path of mutuality - interdependency - is the mature, evolved option.