Leading in a Changing World, Thanks to Technology

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.

vora-image

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

References:

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.

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10 thoughts on “Leading in a Changing World, Thanks to Technology”

  1. This is an excellent discussion of leadership in the digital age. I like the emphasis you place on emotional intelligence and social skills, which are extremely important in today’s industrial climate. How will your leadership style change based on your new knowledge?

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    1. Hello Dr. Robinson,

      Even before taking this course, I was comfortable being a flexible leader who can adjust styles depending on the situation and context of the issue being addressed along with being aware of the work styles and personalities of my team members. I think we all aspire to reach the kind of self-awareness that Weinberger (2011) and Martin (2015) spoke about but even with the new concepts learned in this course, that level of leadership is difficult to come by. As I mature as a leader, I try to restrain myself in more situations in an effort to let my team members find their own way and the ease in finding knowledge and information on the internet helps in this regard. Most of the time, members of my team come away from these learning experiences with a better perspective and commitment to our goals since I allow them to make mistakes (within reason) during the learning process. I am also more inclined to encourage others to find the answers for themselves rather than relying on me every time they have a question. Volumes of regulations and laws guide my organization (it is the Government after all) and sometimes it is hard to find answers in these Byzantine writings but I have great satisfaction when a team member finds the answers they are looking for after hours of research. While this is related to Knowledge Management, I believe imparting feelings of accomplishment to my subordinates is important and technology will only help them improve on their research skills and encourage more person-to-person connectivity. Ben Hammer

      References:

      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

      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.

      Like

  2. Thanks for your reflections on leadership in a world being changed by technology. I liked your reference to Tanma Vora’s (2015) diagram on the skills that leaders need to succeed in our technology driven world: Adaptive mindset, trend analysis, critical thinking, constant and self-directed learning, social intelligence, etc are quite relevant in this world. Which of these skills do you think is most pertinent for your organization? Which of them do you think you can help your organization adopt?

    References

    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/

    Like

    1. Hi Edletech,

      I really liked Vora’s (2015) sketch since it provides a visual roadmap to go by along with showing the connections among the various concepts. If I had to choose one skill pertinent to my organization and would improve our work processes, that would be improving our adaptive mindsets. My organization and the Government as a whole is a case study for sluggishness and slow communicative processes, which is readily apparent in a digital world where social media platforms require continuous updates. There are many within my organization who have not changed or adapted to this new reality and still rely on the hierarchical methods of holding onto information and keeping others in the dark since as Weinberger (2011) shared, knowledge or access to information can be powerful. I believe Martin (2015) is correct that our business culture is moving away from the hierarchical models and one of the strengths of connected leadership is the flexibility of the small group leaders to adapt to both the group dynamics and the situation. Encouraging my organization to adopt adaptive leadership mindsets would mean that any member of work group could be a leader or host based on context, situation, and/or the task the collaborative team is addressing. Ben Hammer

      References:

      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.

      Like

  3. What a wonderful reflection on this course and your perspective about leadership. I really appreciated that you brought Lowney into the conversation. There have been a few times that I have thought of his text throughout this course. The concept of us all leading all the time is a very real and important perspective to address when it come to technology. I work with college-aged students and I often times engage in conversations with them about the image that they are putting out there on the web or social media and how that is a reflection of who they are as people. These conversations are generally eye-opening for them, but I always think of Lowney’s words because we lead in so many capacities of our lives and often times can’t shut those pieces off, even if we want to.

    Additionally, I like how you described “aggressive mentorship” as your style of leadership. As someone that supervises people close in age and those a few years older than myself your language sums up how I often feel. While supervision can be more managerial, there are pieces of mentorship too.

    Thank you for your post!
    Katie

    Like

    1. An excellent post – I enjoyed reading it. I especially enjoyed your comment “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…” I completely agree. The best leaders I have ever worked for were able to listen and adapt as the situation required it, and they were able to interact with employees in a more empathetic way. However, not all leaders are born with these traits. How do you think leaders could be “taught” or encouraged to be more adaptive and more socially intelligent if it is not in their nature? I look forward to your thoughts.

      Andrea

      Like

      1. Hi Andrea,

        Thanks for the feedback. Gee whiz, you sure have asked a tough question. I think we fight this battle every day in trying to encourage others, whether subordinates, peers, or bosses to be more adaptive and socially intelligent and I do not have an easy answer. All of us who go through leadership training are taught about being flexible and adaptive along with receiving encouragement to be more compassionate with our fellow human beings but as you know, these lessons seldom stick beyond the end of the training course. I would also say that it seems to me that the higher a person rises within an organization, the less adaptive and empathetic they become. I know it is frustrating for me to emphasize these tenants everyday but I keep plugging away since if I am successful in getting through to at least one of my team members then that is a win. Perhaps technology will assist people in becoming more socially intelligent and flexible and I can already see a bit of that arriving in the future in form of artificial intelligence and even more connected world. Ben Hammer

        Like

    2. Hi Katie,

      Thanks for your comments. I am with you in thinking about Lowney’s (2003) writing during this course as well. I was reminded about his suggestion for leaders to apply social identity in order to be both part of the group and be the group leader or host, which sounds like what you are doing during your discussions with students. Using the examples of Jesuit self-reflection and the development of others, Lowney (2003) offered that leadership begins from within and by developing the value of quality self-reflection in others, we as leaders can teach a very valuable tool by asking questions of not only subordinates but also peers and our own supervisors. In my approach, sometimes I do not ask questions looking for immediate answers but in an attempt to make others reflect on their own self-motivations. Technology is both a blessing and hindrance in this regard since we can be more closely connected to others no matter the social group but sometimes our desire to maintain a digital presence leads to activities that takes away from our time to reflect and conduct deep thinking exercises whether for work or pleasure. Ben Hammer

      Reference:

      Lowney, C. (2003). Heroic leadership: Best practices from a 450-year-old company that changed the world [Kindle Edition]. Retrieved from Amazon.com

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ben:
    Another great post. As I read your comments about “aggressive mentoring” and prospective leaders who fail in their early opportunities, it made me think more about some of the readings I encountered. A main point of those readings suggests young professionals today expect to contribute to solutions and to changes immediately; otherwise they become quite frustrated. The older idea of staying with a situation and working up through the ranks is one of the casualties of this current era. How can we best address this drive to lead with the development of the tools, such as E. Q. and social skills? Do we need to anticipate some failures and allow them to occur, or do leaders need to be leading in purposeful partnership with those we are mentoring and developing?

    Randy Roberts

    Like

    1. Hi Randy,

      As usual, I appreciate your feedback and comments. By happenstance, I think I already answered part of your questions in my (long-winded) reply to Dr. Robinson above. To emphasize, I believe the most important roles of a senior manager and leader of an organization are not so much making decisions and conducting strategic plans with an eye on the organization’s bottom line but effectively solving problems and planning by taking into account the human resources element. As we boil down any interaction between people, it is the dynamics of the relationship that is usually at the foundation of how decisions are made, support given (or withdrawn), and power distributed as we saw in Martin’s (2015) examples. In my opinion, a smart leader will use these dynamics to conduct daily business and future planning based on the abilities and attributes of the organization’s staff members along with fostering connections and/or partnerships with others whether they be mentees, peers, or supervisors. I also think the key to effective management and leadership is the encouragement of risk taking even if some of the decisions result in mistakes or failures. One of the examples in Weinberger’s (2015) book that stuck with me is that experiments that ended with failure or null results also count as research and there are others in our connected world who benefit in knowing about these failed experiments since it creates another starting point for the next experiment. Ben

      References:

      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

      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.

      Like

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