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Mobile leadership 2 – what is the mindset?

What needs to change in our heads for us to be able to lead cross functional teams effectively? Sometimes we need to unbutton unbundle years of traditional thinking. No longer can we be the supreme expert. We need to act with humility but still with a drive and sharp focus on goals.

Part 2 – The mindset of a cross-functional leader

So far in this series we have discussed the drivers behind the need for effective cross functional leadership and some of the barriers to achieving this. In this article we’re going to focus on what needs to change in our head to drive the behaviours of a cross functional leader.

Challenging our patterns of thinking
“One of the most basic problems of modern management is that the mechanical way of thinking is so ingrained in our everyday conception of organisations that it is often difficult to organise in any other way”
Gareth Morgan

It is not uncommon to see that leaders get stuck with their traditional patterns of thinking as these have served them well over the years, and often have been, what they believe, to be the reason for their ascendance through the organization. However, these patterns of thinking are often barriers for effective cross functional leadership.

Bob Johansen (“Leaders Make the Future”(2009)) challenges leaders to step away from their traditional modes of thinking and think differently, such as not seeing themselves as a cog in a wheel, rather a part of an organic ecosystem. The mobile leader is an enabler & facilitator who leaves their ego at the door, is comfortable with chaos and creates the environment for those around them to thrive.

In his book “Conscious Business” (2006), Fred Kofman describes the need to reframe how we view our current situation to be effective leaders.

An experienced cross-functional leader is comfortable not knowing all the answers and does not get hung up with feeling that not knowing everything could be seen as weakness or the arrogant expert who thinks they always know the answers and that others’ opinions and view are of no value. The former is the humble expert who actively seeks out others’ views and opinions as they value the fact their perspective is limited and only by engaging others do the best solutions come to the fore. Their passionate curiosity in others’ views quickly engages individuals and teams, creating energy and ownership. Reflect on those people around you whom you work with, how many are KNOWERS and how many LEARNERS? Who make the most effective leaders?

In addition, Kofman describes that often people get paralysed by a victim mindset. The mindset that everything is being done to them and they have no control of their lives. They take no responsibility for their actions and their behaviour is all about deflecting blame. The experience cross-functional leader is response-able, able to respond effectively to their situation. They accept their situation and take unconditional responsibility for how they respond to their situation. They don’t wait for others to go first and move from being a spectator to a player on the field as this is the only place that they can have an impact on the outcome of the situation. Again, reflect on those around you, how many are VICTIMS and how many are PLAYERS? Which make the most effective leaders?

The link between leadership style, organisational climate and business performance is well documented. One of the key studies is the work by David McClelland which has been updated by Daniel Goleman in his work “The New Leaders – Transforming the art of Leadership into the science of results”. This new leader excels in the art of relationship, the singular expertise which the changing business climate renders indispensable. Excellence is being defined in interpersonal terms as companies have stripped out layers of managers, as corporations merge across national boundaries, and as customers and suppliers redefine the web of connection.

Although leaders face an unlimited range of situations, research has shown that they apply six leadership styles or behaviour patterns to those situations

You may ask “which style is best for a cross-function leader?”, but there is no “best” style for all people and all situations. Research suggests that a combination of Visionary, Democratic & Coaching are the most effective long term styles. Leaders who effectively demonstrate these long term styles;

• Direct and influence team members and peers, effectively communicating the organisation’s goals
• Set (with team member input) challenging but moderate-risk performance goals
• Delegate responsibility – as much as team members can handle
• Provide frequent specific task-orientated feedback, assistance and resources
• Reward task performance and improvement of performance
• Develop team members effectively by providing ”how to” task instruction

These are what we believe to be the hallmarks of the good cross functional leader.


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Written by Mark Blanchard.