Rotational leadership is a key strategy of peer-based organizations, where leading and managing are not permanent positions, but rather competencies in each employee's skill portfolio. Ultimately, leadership position should be based not on rank and seniority , but on passion and peer review. Rotating the leadership position on a regular basis is the most effective way to begin fostering peer-based organizations. Even in the absence of peer councils, rotating leadership positions on a regular basis will create soft hierarchies that give people a greater chance at participation and contribution. Also, the fact that people share in the ownership of leading means that they also share in the burden of communicating knowledge and information to others. This improves team-work and knowledge sharing in a manner that makes organizations self-correcting. Three of the very successful organizations I mentioned earlier ”W. L. Gore & Associates, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and Ricardo Semler's Semco ”practice in varying degrees this idea of rotational leadership.
The essence of rotational leadership is that those in management positions have defined term limits. Individuals in management positions are given a certain amount of time to fill their management assignment and select two or three specific and measurable objectives for their tenure. When their time is up, other individuals are chosen and the rotation continues. This keeps the energy flow through the organization generative , and makes possible a wider choice of strategic paths and a greater number of creative innovations. This practice also undermines any residue of the myth of leadership and allows everyone in the organization to develop their own potential to the fullest. Furthermore, it brings about greater equality in salaries and prohibits the excesses of executive pay. This boosts morale , trust, and productivity better than any leadership seminar or change initiative imposed on the organization and increases the competitive advantage of the organization over its rank-based counterparts.
In rank-based organizations dominated by the myth of leadership, strategizing and decision making are the job of the top executives, and they closely protect this right. The old guard, subconsciously or not, first and foremost want to preserve the stability and equilibrium of the organization, and so tend to create only very dull strategies. Giving leaders and managers term limits on their management assignment along with clear objectives for their term helps create an eternally fresh and energetic organization. Otherwise , there will continue to be a growing disaffection with corporate leadership ”as Seifter and Economy (2001) point out as they contrast the tremendous success of rotating leaders at Orpheus with the traditional permanent leadership position.
Research by Carnegie Mellon business professor Robert Kelley has revealed widespread dissatisfaction with corporate leadership among employees . Forty percent of those surveyed believed that their bosses had questionable leadership abilities , and almost as many believed that their bosses had "ego problems" that made them feel threatened by and defensive around talented subordinates and new ideas. Less than half of all leaders inspired trust in their subordinates , and only one in seven was seen as a potential role model to emulate. When such shortcomings pervade a company, even otherwise credible leaders are undermined and followers feel adrift. (89)