Today, people with power and influence derive their power from their centrality within self-organizing networks that might or might not correspond to any plan on the part of designated leaders. Organization structure in vanguard companies involves multi-directional responsibilities, with an increasing emphasis on horizontal relationships rather than vertical reporting as the center of action that shapes daily tasks and one’s portfolio of projects, in order to focus on serving customers and society. Circles of influence replace chains of command, as in the councils and boards at Cisco which draw from many levels to drive new strategies. Distributed leadership — consisting of many ears to the ground in many places — is more effective than centralized or concentrated leadership. Fewer people act as power-holders monopolizing information or decision-making, and more people serve as integrators using relationships and persuasion to get things done.
This changes the nature of career success. It is not enough to be technically adept or even to be interpersonally pleasant. Power goes to the “connectors”: those people who actively seek relationships and then serve as bridges between and among groups. Their personal contacts are often as important as their formal assignment. In essence, “She who has the best network wins.”
… John Maeda … [a]ddressing the challenge of “Open Source Administration” … expounded on his philosophies of humanizing technology through social medias, specifically focusing on his own efforts to create more communal and creative networks in his present role as president of RSID. If you could get past the microphone echo, Maeda’s talk, as usual, was perfectly simple, refreshing and human. Reminding us that “electrons move at the speed of light, [people] don’t”, he touched on his implementation of internal blogs and digital message boards for the RSID community, the importance of finding “authenticity” within large organizations, and the realization that he had evolved from a “CEO” to a “moderator” at RSID…
Earlier this year at the Davos World Economic Forum, I met a president from an Ivy League institution who said to me, “Hey, I know you. You’re the president who blogs.” He asked how it was going, and I talked about my experiments with external blogs, internal anonymous blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and other “open-source” platforms as a means to increase transparency. He smiled and said, “That’s never going to work. But hey, if it works, other presidents will be doing it too I’m sure. But we’re waiting to see what happens with you first.”
After my first year of blogging, I can report both success (with those constituents who chose to engage the medium) and failure (with those who did not and ended up further distanced). However, I have learned one very important lesson: transparency and clarity are two completely different things, and in many cases complete clarity should be a leader’s goal rather than complete transparency.