Leadership Structure: Flat Autonomy

The leadership structure at AlphaSights is unique in that it is relatively flat which allows for a variety of things.  The only three positions available for an employee on the client services team at AlphaSights is associate, manager, or Vice President.  Associate is an entry-level position, and it is possible to be promoted to a manager after only 2 years.  Attaining a VP position is possible after five years, after which there is little upward mobility to be had.   As for the summers, interns are simply “summer associates,” so they are trained and onboarded in the same way.  Interns are given all the responsibility of a full-time new joiner, the only difference being that they stay only for the summer before getting a return offer.  This flat structure allows for a hands-on environment in which even new joiners are given quite a lot of responsibility within the company.  Moreover, it allows for all employees within the client services team to have greater visibility on their own impact within the organization.   Within the various divisions, there are “teams” which usually consist of one manager and two associates, with 1-2 interns in the summer.

This past week, I witnessed a temporary shift in this leadership and as a result was exposed to different styles of leadership.  My trainer, along with all other newly-promoted managers at the company, attended “manager boot camp” for the first three days of the week.  The end of these three days mark the official transition from associate to manager.  In these three days, I worked with a different trainer from a different team.  These three days exposed me to a new kind of leadership style; this particular trainer placed high value on the importance of being organized on the job, believing it was the key to success at AlphaSights.  Watching him operate was interesting because although similar processes are carried out by more or less all associates, it is definitely apparent the nuances in style between various trainers.  For example, efficiency is highly valued at the company, because we are want to outperform and outdeliever our competitors.  However, different associates seek to achieve this efficiency in distinct ways.  Because the process is so similar for all associates, the nuances and little adjustments are much more noticeable. Each employee establishes their own way of completing their work, and because of a lack of dominance from a higher-up, their autonomy allows them to execute the way they feel is most effective.

Because the average span of work for an employee at AlphaSights is under five years, the rate at which promotion occurs is quite accelerated.  I asked my trainer when he returned about what occured at boot camp, to which he replied: “it didn’t need to be three days.”  I wonder what the three-day training consisted of, and how this transition to upward mobility normally functions.  Needless to say, the dynamics of our team following the boot camp did not seem to change at all–the dynamics between our new manager and associate seemed the same as they had been before.  Perhaps this was a combination of anticipatory leadership and the lack or role-changing between the two positions.  Nonetheless, the lack of significant structural hierarchy at the company speaks to the autonomy and responsibility of all employees.

2 thoughts on “Leadership Structure: Flat Autonomy

  • July 17, 2019 at 3:31 pm
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    Let me start by noting that this is uncategorized, though I think it is addressing the ‘leader/follower relationship’ prompt. So as you stated in your ‘organizational culture’ reflection, it seems that the life-expectancy of an AlphaSights employee is fairly limited, given there is limited mobility after VP, which can be attained relatively quickly, and perhaps also because of the professional development/growth focus of the organization. Will be interesting to see if such turn-over is always an asset (always acquiring new individuals and their perspectives) or if there are times where it is a detriment. Would have liked to hear more about some of the distinct ways in which different employees achieve efficiency (examples of different behaviors employed by different individuals).

    • July 21, 2019 at 12:43 pm
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      I wrote the entire reflection thinking I had checked the leader/follower relationships box; I have updated it! Definitely think quick turnover can be both a detriment and asset…

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