Monday, September 26, 2011

The Democratization of Leadership

Many analysts have written about the role of social media in the ongoing democratization of the Arab nations. Most admit that social media have had an important role and aided communication and accelerated the process.

My thoughts turn to the latest trends in management and leadership and the impact of systems and complexity theory on social and organizational models. I have become convinced that the 20th century models of management and leadership are crumbling. I believe we are witnessing a democratization of leadership and management and I believe that social media is perhaps the single most important factor in this process.

Social media has made us aware (more than ever before) of our interdependency and interconnectedness, but also of our equality. There are no hierarchies in social networks only specialized roles. Networks where information flows freely and which have the ability to form themselves tend to last. Rigid non-adaptive ones die. A company can be viewed as a complex adaptive system and many recent books support this view. In the post 20th century economy the most successful companies are often the most adaptive ones, the most innovative ones. Thus old hierarchical models of leadership and management are proving to be too rigid and unresponsive and people are turning to alternative autonomous models. Along side of this process is an influx of workers who have grown up with social media and who are reluctant to position themselves at the bottom of a hierarchy, especially in industries such as IT. Just like in the Arab Spring they demand democracy and autonomy. Finally, research into complex social networks has begun to erode our deterministic "knowledge" of motivation and performance and replace it with complexity theories of emergence and self organization. This knowledge is just now seeping into the more open management organizations and will in time permeate even the most conservative companies.

Thus we have three forces all pushing in the same direction with a seemingly inevitable conclusion; the old hierarchical style of leadership, with bonuses and focus on the individual, is dying. I predict this will be replaced by leadership which cultivates peoples own innate desires to create something useful for society, sets clear goals and allows the employees to self organize and learn. In this organization todays management hierarchies will disappear to be replaced by coaches and specialized roles.

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