Almost all leadership concepts start with the assumption that a key role for the leader is to set a direction. This usually means designing and communicating a vision and a set of goals. Traditionally, the roles of vision and goals have been there to help people to understand the direction of the enterprise and how they can contribute to it.
Today we need something more.
We need to define what binds individuals together. Separate individuals connecting with the vision may not be enough if people don’t connect with one another. What we are striving to do is not enough if there is no discussion about who we are, and why we do the things we do. We cannot talk about an organization of people without referring to what makes them a collective.
Leadership in the era of the social business should be about providing a platform for discussing the meaning of work and the collective identity.
Leadership should address the human search for being part of something larger than one’s self. The more gifted people are, the more they want to connect with meaningful people doing meaningful things together.
As almost all organizations are becoming increasingly diverse and network-like, and as all boundaries are increasingly flexible, the notion of what brings people together is becoming even more critical.
When we think of intelligence, we usually think of extraordinary individuals. We imagine the thought processes of independent geniuses innovating in isolation. Nothing could be further away from the reality. Creativity is an interactive and social process for even the most gifted. Significant creative breakthroughs almost always represent years of sustained collaboration with others. Creative individuals need both independence and interdependence to do their best work. A creative organization thrives on the tension that arises from widely different but complementary abilities and views working with one another.
In industrial management, individuals were taken for granted and had no choice or voice. The foundations of work relationships are still largely built on asymmetrical relationships between the employer and the employee, the manager and the worker. This antagonism is already affecting labor markets in developed countries: firms are finding it increasingly hard to hire good people. Younger people are more and more attracted to self-employment and entrepreneurial possibilities instead of joining a corporation.
The ideas and technological solutions around the social enterprise can help renew and refresh outdated approaches to work.
The social business is very different from the industrial corporation. In order to be successful, the firm needs to listen and involve people in the same manner that we are today trying to do with one group – customers. Successful corporations, no matter how large and established, are evolving collectives of talented, passionate and diverse individuals in interaction
Knowledge workers want to have a say in what they do in life; where and when they work and most importantly – why and with whom!
More on the subject
New social networks. David Weinberger on impractical knowledge and knowledge is the network. Douglas Rushkoff on the future of jobs.
Coworking spaces in London, and Amsterdam and co-working as a phenomena.