After eight weeks spent pondering and reflecting about the effects of technological transformations to the historical approaches of leadership, I was heartened to read Michele Martin’s 2015 piece about the changing nature of leadership in the new millennium. I was glad to see that Martin (2015) wrote about and Tanmay Vora (2015) sketched out (image below) the skills needed by people (not just workers) and leaders to succeed and thrive in a world where our attention and priorities are constantly distracted thanks to technology. These leadership skills or traits of having the ability to connect with others, being able to concentrate and/or focus deeply when needed, and the ability to distinguish between the “noise” and the message in the ever-growing sea of information among others are also the same ideas and values that I have advocated for in my own organization. As I was reading Martin’s (2015) article and Peter Drucker’s quote about leaders doing the right things, it reminded me of Chris Lowney’s (2003) dictum, “we are all leaders and we are leading all the time” and reinforces my own thought that leadership through feel good slogans and buzzwords is not the true measure of a person’s style of management.
Like many in leadership and management positions, my style has evolved by learning by mistakes, moments of epiphany, and seeking continuous feedback from subordinates, peers, and quality supervisors. I also learned what a poor or mediocre leader is by observing far too many examples. Leadership to me is a constant struggle to remain flexible since every situation and worker is different. Knowing that with advice from writers such as Weinberger (2011) and Kelly (2017) and thinkers such as Bostrom (2015), Jarche (2013), and Shirky (2014), I can develop effective and motivated teams within a technologically changing environment which reinforces my own positive opinion of team first leadership, which is just another way to describe a connected workforce. I believe that the advancements in technology and the way we acquire knowledge through the internet requires leaders to sometimes put aside ego or personal ambition in order to train and grow future leaders since this provides a solid and ongoing foundation for an organization. Rather than solely using the term of ‘hosting’ as defined by Martin (2015), I plan to continue what I call ‘aggressive mentorship’ since some subordinates and peers are in need of guidance but reluctant to ask but I am mindful to respect their and my own internal boundaries while offering assistance and guidance.
I have the impression that successful leaders are always planning for tomorrow and the best bet to create an efficacious organization tomorrow is to be selective with today’s workforce talent and give them the technological tools and associated training to thrive. However, Weinberger (2011) emphasized the difficulties in filtering and selecting helpful knowledge on the internet today and these same difficulties apply to a leader’s emotional intelligence and ability to discern the truth in an advanced age where information is easily manipulated. Weinberger’s (2011) theme in Too Big to Know reminded me of the Marcus Aurelius quote concerning how hard it is to decipher the truth, “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” I have seen people who were groomed for leadership fail miserably when actually placed in charge of a team and given an assignment to complete. These future leaders were selected based on their intelligence and successful project management but not emotional intelligence and social skills, which after reading Martin (2015) should have been part of the selection equation along with teaching the importance of information synthesizing so weaknesses could be identified earlier.
Future leaders would also benefit from the opinion presented by Jarche (2013) in that leaders must first establish a relationship with the group they are trying to lead and the group has to acquiesce to being assisted by this new style of leader/host in order to for the organization to be successful. Martin’s (2015) ideas concerning clarifying, connecting, creating, and coping reinforced some of my ideas that an effective leader should be able to choose a ‘third way’ in situations that do not present an easy answer. By encouraging the team to work around the problem rather than allowing the problem to consume then, a competent leader will use the solutions as opportunities to move in new directions whether that means more profit, increased performance, or improved customer service. Rather than being a challenge to a leader’s intelligence and well-being, I think developing an adaptive mindset and social intelligence would not only improve a leader’s problem solving skills but also increase a person’s value within the team rather than being a prototypical hero-leader as defined by Martin (2015).
I see my organization and myself in Weinberger’s (2011) descriptions about the struggles of readily available information and the constantly evolving internet. My organization (myself included) has experienced many issues as we have grappled with new tools such as social media and mobile computing which makes employees available 24/7. Many of my peers have been encouraging our senior leadership to recognize the challenges that rapidly changing technology bring to old-fashioned organizations such as ours. Although there have been some initiatives to teach employees about social media platforms and offering other options to better connect our workforce digitally, it appears many people in upper management still do not fully understand that we are already in the next industrial revolution as described by Kelly (2017). I consider leadership a constant learning process and this course in technology and leadership has only added to my toolbox of ideas to be a better leader and follower with the assistance of technology. Ben Hammer
Bostrom, N. (2015, March). What happens when computers get smarter than we are? Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/nick_bostrom_what_happens_when_our_computers_get_smarter_than_we_are
Chui, M. (Interviewer) & Shirky, C. (Interviewee). (2014). The Disruptive Power of Collaboration: An Interview with Clay Shirky [Interview transcript]. Retrieved from McKinsey and Company website: http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/high-tech/our-insights/the-disruptive-power-of-collaboration-an-interview-with-clay-shirky
Jarche, H. (2013, November 5). Networks are the new companies. [Blog]. Retrieved from http://jarche.com/2013/11/networks-are-the-new-companies/
Kelly, K. (2017, January 12). How AI can bring on a second industrial revolution. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/IjbTiRbeNpM
Lowney, C. (2003). Heroic leadership: Best practices from a 450-year-old company that changed the world [Kindle Edition]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
Martin, M. (2015, December). A deep dive into thinking about 21st century leadership. [Blog]. Retrieved from http://www.michelemmartin.com/thebambooprojectblog/2015/12/work-in-progress-the-leadership-lab.html
Vora, T. (2015, August 31). Skills for future success in a disruptive world of work. [Blog]. Retrieved from http://qaspire.com/2015/08/31/skills-for-future-success-in-a-disruptive-world-of-work/
Weinberger, D. (2011). Too big to know: Rethinking knowledge now that the facts aren’t the facts, experts are everywhere, and the smartest person in the room is the room. New York: Basic Books.