Polycentric Leadership. You may have never heard the term before, but it may just describe how you strive to live out your professional career by serving in multiple, diverse centers at the same time. For me, that looks like being the president of OneHope, while also dedicating time to other pursuits like co-authoring a book with John C. Maxwell about transformational change, teaching graduate studies through Southeastern University, helping an entrepreneurial start-up, and serving as an advisor for several Global networks and movements. Each of these opportunities I’m pursuing correlates with one of my strengths or passions.
Leaders of all ages and stages are latching onto the concept of polycentric leadership. The emerging workforce of Gen Z and younger Millennials, in particular, don’t want to be pigeonholed within a silo of leadership but want to expand all of the creative ways they can serve in multiple centers at the same time. In our fast-paced, connected world, that’s now a possibility.
Hear me out though. Polycentric leadership isn’t a call to spread ourselves too thin, wear ourselves out, or overcommit. It’s a practice of operating with excellence in every sphere guided by good governance. Polycentric leaders have the capacity to serve in many arenas. They’ve built their lives and organizations in such a way that they can be involved in multiple enterprises that they feel are incredibly valuable and have the capacity in order to do that with excellence. No leader on their own can best manage their time and stay healthy. Overlapping, transparent, governance is needed.
Personally, I have a presidential care committee, appointed by my Board, that helps me balance my responsibilities across these different spheres. This group understands the broad picture of my commitments. When a new opportunity arises, they evaluate it with me and advise whether it is an opportunity I should accept at that time. The principles of polycentric leadership work because it allows leaders to be able to quickly take advantage of opportunities and say ‘yes’ within healthy limits.
If you’re considering taking on another sphere of work, reflect on these questions as a starting point:
Do you have the needed governance structures in place to succeed?
Realistically, do you have the capacity to move forward?
Every ‘yes’ is a ‘no’ to something else. What are you potentially saying ‘no’ to, if you accept?