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#22 Rethinking hierarchy - how anyone can improve their work culture, with Rainer Höll

Leadership isn’t a position, it's a behaviour. And no matter where we are in our company's hierarchy, we can all change our behaviour, and by extension our work culture, says Rainer Höll.

Rainer Höll is an Organisational Developer: he’s a soul-searcher, a philosopher, a visionary, who helps companies ask themselves the tough questions needed to become better workplaces.

In his particular case, he realised that the organisation that he was CEO of at the time - Ashoka Germany - would benefit from a less hierarchical structure, so he took steps to change that. "We distributed the leadership across all members of the team; that’s when I switched my title from Managing Director to partner - all the permanent members of the team became partners,” he explains in this Podcast.

Ashoka may be an extreme case of an organisation abandoning its hierarchies entirely - but there are lessons in this for any company. It’s about overcoming fears, building trust and authenticity, and a more open workplace. "There are so many conversations that don't happen in conventional organisations because people are afraid of bringing up certain topics,” says Höll. "You have a default, which is the conventional hierarchy - but no one really questions it because no one knows if it’s dangerous to question it. But it’s entirely possible to have a conscious conversation about - is this the best set-up for us? It’s not about the intricacies and the details of the decision-making structure; it’s the cultural foundation of trust and conversational ability that you need to build.”

That culture of open conversation and trust makes for a more attractive workplace - and staff who are more open to developing leadership skills at any level. "There are a lot of competencies around emotional self-management or having a systemic view of an organisation - that’s a typical leader skill toolset,” he says. “If you distribute the decisions-making power among people, everyone needs to be able to do that.” And everyone benefits.

My full conversation with Rainer is here:

or on Youtube:

It certainly made me rethink a few things! How about you? Are you ready to abandon your hierarchies just yet…?

Speaker: Rainer Höll, Executive Coach and Organisational Developer

Interviewer: Dr. Ricarda Engelmeier - Founder @MyCollective

Music: sponsored by @Michaelkadelbach

Picture: Rainer Höll / Christian Klant

Graphic & Production: MyCollective

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