Saturday, February 26, 2011

Seriously Rethinking Leadership in a Networked World

For over 30 years, I have had the privilege of helping leaders around the world develop their leadership effectiveness. In dozens of sectors and markets, I've seen the best and worst.

I continue to see established and emerging leaders who are passionate about learning to be better leaders and entrenched leaders who view learning as a threat to their power.

In these interesting times, we are witnessing an abundance of leaders who are devastating the integrity of markets and the faith of their constituents. Many countries have what Will Rogers referred to as "the best government money can buy." It is easy to find leaders who define leadership as the exercise of control over money and people.

At the same time, the planet is abundant with leaders who are helping to make their communities stronger and more resilient. They have intelligence, wisdom, and transparency. They see themselves more as stewards of resources rather than controllers of money and people. They think that leadership is more about helping people find their power than having power over people.

But are these the qualities of good leaders? Perhaps the only thing we can accurately say about leadership is that every assessment is based on personal bias.

For some people, good leaders serve their interests at the cost of serving competing interests. They like weak leaders they can control with money, votes or threats to their power and influence. Others like strong leaders who exercise control over others. They like leaders whose rule guarantees certainty in their favor.

Whether we want leaders who are children capable of being controlled or parents capable of protecting us, what both perspectives have in common is that they are essentially self-serving. They position leaders as tools to our agendas.

And because we are still transitioning through a predominantly adolescent consciousness on this planet, there are almost always competing agendas. In this ethos, we impose on leaders the unfulfillable expectations to guarantee the dominance of our agendas over opposing and hopefully loser agendas.

The opposite of viewing leaders as tools to use is viewing them as assets to engage in our networks. The two most valuable assets in networks are knowledge and skills.

In this worldview, leaders have unique value to the extent that they have unique knowledge and skills in their networks. Their networks include everyone they directly interact with and influence. Leaders who lack unique value have redundant value in their network.

The more connected networks become, the more likely it is that leaders have redundant value. This is one dimension of the leadership crisis today, exacerbated by the fact that the more asset redundant leaders become, the more irrelevant they feel and the more control they exert to restore ego equilibrium.

Reality is, in networks leaders can gain unique value in at least two ways. They create unique value when they create a niche of unique value for themselves. And they gain unique value when those in their network intentionally leave them a space of value uniqueness that no one else takes on.

This is a huge culture shift to see the value of leaders as equivalent to the uniqueness of their real time knowledge and skills relative to their networks. It is a shift that requires us to question the value of positional power that leaders assume in their leadership roles.

Positional power is the assumed power to control money and people. We have abundant and growing evidence that it takes no unique network value to exercise control over money and people.

Scope of control has nothing to do with unique value in a network. If scope of control had any causal relationship to scope of unique value in networks, monarchs, autocrats, and dictators would be guaranteed the most unique knowledge and skills in any networks at any levels around the world.

Understanding leadership through the lens of unique network value profoundly changes the conversations we have when we interact with leaders in our networks at the relative levels each of us has access to these kinds of interactions.

It becomes imperative that everyone understands the unique assets of their leaders. Before they enter any leadership position, we need to gain a collectively clear and accurate picture of their unique and redundant assets relative to our and their networks. When they enter these positions, we need to make it collectively clear what unique assets they have that the thrivancy of our networks require. We also then need to negotiate the areas of asset uniqueness they would provide the network.

But because of the intrinsically dynamic nature of networks, their relative asset uniqueness and possibilities of uniqueness constantly shifts and changes as other people in the network expand their unique value, making the leader's assets redundant, but still possibly quite valuable. Asset redundancy at optimal levels is key to network resiliency.

Networks are also constantly shifting landscapes of opportunities and expectations and so leaders always have opportunities to grow their unique assets to meet these. And this emphasis on asset and network based leadership makes it immediately more possible for leaders across boundaries to collaborate more successfully and intelligently to do together what they cannot possibly do alone, apart or in opposition.

This is an incredibly important shift if we seek a world where leaders help build thriving communities at micro to macro levels.

In this construct, perhaps the most salient characteristic of network relevant and valued leaders is that they have a passion for knowing their networks and continuously reinvent the unique value in knowledge and skills they bring to their networks.

This calls for a profound shift in how we develop, select, and assess our leaders. And the time to begin is now.

Twitter @jackzen / Jack's profile:

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Mapping Twitter Chats

This is a network map of the almost 1000 tweets during the #ideachat 1 hour session in November 2010. Individual participants in the chat are shown as purple nodes and the "whole group" is shown as the large green circular node. If someone tweeted to everyone in the group, at least twice in the session, an arrow would be drawn from their node to the big green node. People who tweeted to each other [@ messages or RTs], at least twice in the 1 hour session, will have arrows drawn from the tweeter node to the subject node. @blogbrevity <--> @cocreatr indicates that they both sent 2 or more tweets to each other during the session. [We do not show the hundreds of single tweets in the session -- we are looking for key participants.]

Node size on the network map reflects a new network metric we are experimenting with called "attention" which tries to determine both quantity and quality of links pointing at someone. It's not just the number of tweets pointed at you, but who they come from that matters. We will also post an interactive version of this map that will allow you to filter on the type of tweets and their timing during the 1 hour session.

From: blogbrevity's posterous Thanks, Angela!