In my first 3 weeks working at The Estee Lauder Companies (ELC), I have learned a lot about the organization’s leader/follower dynamics. Within the company, work is first structured by department. Because most of the departments at ELC are relatively large, work is then further structured by team. For example, within the department that I work in, the Global Corporate Communications Department, there is an Internal Communications Team and an External Communications Team, as well as other subdivisions of those overall teams. Depending on the type of project/assignment at hand, the work will be distributed to the team that is most aligned.
With respect to leadership positions in the company, there is a formal hierarchy, however, I have noticed, in general, that company and department leaders try to establish commonality between employees, rather than emphasizing power-distance. This leadership style seems to work very well, as it is clear who is in a position of power and to what extent, however, this hierarchy is not so intense that it divides leaders and followers. Collaboration between leaders and followers of all different positions is highly encouraged. People who are not in formal leadership roles certainly still have a voice/influence on others in the organization. In meetings, everyone usually shares their ideas/opinions and people at every level are encouraged to speak out. That being said, however, it definitely does feel like seniority, in terms of length of time working at the company, has a strong influence on informal leadership in the organization.
Finally, at ELC, followers seem to very highly respect company leaders. The majority of employees strive to be in leadership positions and it is pretty competitive to obtain these positions. Many company leaders are revered based on prestige–they have had extremely successful careers and are incredibly hard working. Employees know that at ELC no one is just handed a leadership position–these leaders have worked hard for their achievements.
Because many of the leaders in the company are rather accessible and, as previously mentioned, do not draw high attention to the power-distance between leaders and followers, it encourages close relationships and high levels of trust between leaders and members in the organization. While there is always a level of professionalism when interacting with leaders, employees seem to form rather informal, close relationships with department leaders.