Nov 30, 2009

Leadership in Hyper-Linked Times



As organizations get more and more linked to external stakeholders, and their people become unofficial spokespeople on social networks like Twitter and Facebook and become marketers whether or not it is their role.

In such times - specially for organizations that are living in this hyper-linked worlds - what are the leadership behaviors that should be adopted.

Not surprisingly, these behaviors are not new. As I mentioned earlier, the tools of web 2.0 promise real organization development, and therefore, the behaviors of leaders must reflect the tenets of OD and these times.

They are:


  1. Openness and Transparency - In the web 2.0 world there is little there is hidden, even vague terms of services cannot be changed without people noticing. A leader always has to remember and more importantly live this with the utmost sincerity - both within and externally 
  2. Conversation - It is not just about being transparent, leaders should also engage with employees and external stakeholders about what issues they face and if nothing else - they should acknowledge it, and if needed communicate what they are willing to do about it. Of course, sometimes legal and stockmarket requirements can require executives not to make forward looking statements. In earlier non-internet times I reckon this was known simply within the organization as MBWA
  3. Content - Leaders must realise that their organizational brand and product brands are what users interpret - and that they cannot control it. Indeed, they must actively work to give it away - understanding that there is nothing so powerful as an idea owned by the users. How can you as a leader encourage content and conversation creation, both within and externally to the organization. 
  4. Collaboration - Leaders of hyperlinked organizations know that people and groups cannot do things independently anymore- they have to collaborate with partners, other employees, other stakeholders to create lasting impact. Their own behavior sets the tone for all their employees, so they must be and be seen to be collaborative. 
  5. Communities - Leaders understand that people -internally and outside the organization - are part of shared interest groups - around various 'social objects'. For employees that could be "how we use this cool tool to solve problems" to "employees who like football" - and externally it could be "people interested in the benefit our product gives" - and if you're Apple, Google, Lego, Harley-Davidson you could have communities around your product too. As a leader you have to understand the deep universal desire of people to connect around a certain shared passion. Identify what ties in to your objectives, and then understand how to facilitate it - give it sustenance. What are the tribes who you will align with?
  6. Collective Intelligence - Leaders know that when communities have conversations and collaborate, new and better ideas get generated. They might be better than the ideas the firm comes up on its own, and there is no shame in admitting it and embracing it. This is the pinnacle of giving up control and becoming part of the community yourself.
The question is - are you ready to make the leap?