Leadership in Today’s World

originally posted on Concept Hub

As many people who know me know, I am a believer in “drinking my own Koolaide.” What that means to me is that if I am going to evangelize anything, a trend, technology, or way of being, I am going to embrace the ideas behind what I am advocating.

As we all know the world is changing. In fact, it is changing faster than any of us can really keep up with. There are changes in technology, which over the years has changed how, when and where we communicate with our friends, family, co-workers, partners, and clients. These technological changes have also changed how we do business by knocking many barriers to entry, reducing costs of production and distribution and increasing the competitive landscape. Not only are people able to get products that are better and cheaper from your known competitors, but they are also able to collaborate to become the creators of the solutions they need. This is known as being a “prosumer.”

Recently many books have been written about how this new world is changing business models and leadership styles such as The World is Flat, WikinomicsBlue Ocean StrategyMobilizing MindsThe Starfish and the Spider, and so forth.

Each of the authors of these books looks at the world we live in today and have found that organizations need to be flatter and more collaborative. As a whole, we need to knock down siloed walls and engage in open and transparent dialog with customers. Leaders of organizations today need to empower their employees to take ownership of the success of the organization. Each member of the team needs to be able to think on their feet, have access to just in time information, be fast learners and contributors to the organization’s knowledge base, as well as be empowered to serve the needs of the consumer.

Organizations today need to be agile enough to shift and change as fast as the market changes. This means that R&D gets products and/or services to market in the “Beta” stage and test and refines offerings based on the reactions of the market. This means employees are not only able, willing and empowered to learn more, do more, and be more, but that they can do so with a unified message that is consistently in sync with the demands of the consumers.

Add all the changes that technology has brought to our world with the fact that people are watching the financial markets become a 6 on the Earthquake Richter scale and organizations are now faced with the need to have the best and brightest talent that can react fast, serve each and every client, be innovative, and contribute to every idea that directly affects the bottom line.

A few questions that the leaders of today’s organizations need to consider are;

  • Are there organizational barriers to understanding the full relationship we have with our clients/vendors/donors/members
  • Are the technology solutions we use sharing data in an efficient and effective manner?
  • Do we have a complete picture of our clients and their activities with our organizations?
  • Are we allowing clients/vendors/donors/members to truly interact with us – via multiple channels?

However, the reality is the level of contribution needed now is a lot to ask of most people today. As I have attempted to drink my own Koolaide I have come to recognize the unfortunate reality that most people are not conditioned to be the types of employees or team members that organizations need in order to be successful. We were raised in an education system that taught us to take direction and to “color inside the lines.” Even today many schools refuse to allow students to use Wikipedia as a resource even though many doctors, lawyers, and various other professionals admit that Wikipedia is their first reference source. The reason is Wikipedia is based on content created by users, which is not deemed authoritative enough for schools. So instead of teaching our children to be critical thinkers, we are still teaching them to be mindless consumers of direction.

But our world is changing, and changing fast. A couple of weeks ago Andrew McAfee, Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, asked: “Should Knowledge Workers Have Enterprise 2.0 Ratings?”

I personally see this as an important question. One of the biggest obstacles that organizations face right now is that even when they realize that they need to empower their team, enable collaboration amongst teams and departments, and tap into the intelligence of the marketplace, they are faced with a cultural challenge that is much bigger than organizations have ever faced in that past. We can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on the technology that will enable people to connect, collaborate and innovate, but that technology will not necessarily mean that people will change their habits of simply waiting for direction.

Your performance will not only be based on how well you carry out your responsibilities but how well you lead conversations, interact in collaborative discussions and lead new efforts.

In this world organizations will act as a “Flat” organizational structure that coexists with the hierarchal organizational structure and social software becomes a key competitive advantage for unlocking hidden talent, innovation, and removing inefficiencies within the organization.

But what will it take to get us there?

Perhaps a culture where all complaints are documented alongside recommended solutions. All ideas are considered as viable options. If we all go into the game with the agreement that;

  • People want to create
  • People want to be heard
  • People want to make a difference
  • People want to make money

perhaps we can begin to take the steps necessary to lead people to be individual contributors. But as many organizations who have already adopt 2.0 technologies have learned,  the solution is not in the technology, but in the way we lead, the way we hire, and what we expect from our team members.

We have in front of us new challenges that require new leadership. Leadership that can inspire. Leadership that can learn from the masses. Leadership with minimal egos and maximum curiosity. Leadership that can think globally. Leadership that sees opportunity in change and therefore can create a culture that will continuously be leaders of change.