One might not necessarily associate the field of architecture with servant-leadership. In talking with architects over the years, I have learned that working in that profession can be a top-down, authoritarian experience based on pecking order. One firm, however, stands in contrast to this model. The late Zaha Hadid, considered a “starchitect” by many for her ambitious designs across the globe, created a sense of collaboration with those with whom she worked. In a New York Times article from last year, Joris Pauwels, a project architect with her firm, said that in the office “ideas flowed democratically rather than hierarchically.” Furthermore, the article points out, “architects, both senior and junior, brainstormed ideas together, and the younger design architects would then develop proposals that would lead to further sketches.” This level of collaboration is a key tenet of servant-leadership.
Patrik Schumacher, Hadid’s business partner and current principal of the firm, said that when the firm grew from 40 to 400, “We couldn’t have hundreds of people on a zero hierarchy. We restructured, organizing clusters under collegial leadership.” Discussing the firm’s future without Hadid, Schumacher added, “For a long time, we’ve had a very distributed leadership and collective design process, so that won’t change.”
Perhaps this “collegial and distributed leadership” can account, at least in part, for Hadid’s endurance. Nearly 50 posthumous projects could be built in the years to come. Collaboration creates a sustained legacy.
President, The Gabriel Center for Servant-Leadership