"You haven't really captured this accountability without control principle have you?"

Two of the biggest objections that senior managers raise in moving to a matrix organization are “how can I be accountable for something I do not control?” and “how can I influence without authority?”

Whilst at first these sound like reasonable concerns and they do create challenges for leaders, it is interesting to dig behind them to understand the underlying assumptions.

If I can only get things done through control or authority then I am exercising an old-fashioned dictatorial style of leadership – is that what we really want from our managers?

Do you remember the good old days when you couldn’t question authority? When length of service was the final arbiter in making a decision? When people knew not to answer back to those in power and obedience was more important than initiative?

Wasn’t it great when leaders had complete control over all the resources they needed and didn’t need to talk to anyone else or understand anything outside their narrow silos to get on doing whatever they thought fit?

I’m happy to say I can’t remember what it was like in more than 30 years of my career.  I don’t think I would have enjoyed either being a boss or an employee in this way of working.

Of course to try and run a business this way today would be commercial suicide and would lead to high levels of staff turnover and low levels of engagement. As the world became more complex this traditional and hierarchical way of working just couldn’t cope.

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But this appears to be what our leaders are asking for when they want complete control over resources and authority to make decisions without the cost for the people. It is interesting when I point this out that, in reality, nobody really wants to go back to those days.

What leaders are often illustrating by these comments is that they have fallen back on authority and control as important parts of their skill set. Moving them outside this easy way of getting things done is definitely going to be more challenging but it may also move them into the current century.

About the author:

Kevan Hall Kevan Hall is a CEO, author, speaker and trainer in matrix management, virtual teams and global working. He is the author of "Speed Lead - faster, simpler ways to manage people, projects and teams in complex companies, "Making the Matrix work - how matrix managers engage people and cut through complexity", and the "Life in a Matrix" podcasts, videos, cartoons and blog. He is CEO and founder of Global Integration. Company profile: .

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