Developing Leaders for our connected Economy

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“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate for the story present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our situation is new, so we must think anew and act anew.” Abraham Lincoln, 1 December 1862.











The increasingly wide adoption of Social Media and the inherent extension of technology from processing and extracting business data to the development of personal connections provides great opportunities to improve both the effectiveness and the efficiency of our business management and leadership – as a start, in my view it gives a whole new dimension to “management by walking about”! What does this greater “connectiveness” mean for effective Leadership and the development of Future Leaders? For example, is greater transparency putting more of a premium on Leaders being authentic? In the words of Abraham Lincoln, above, “As our Situation is new …. We must thick a new and act anew”


In a recent paper “The Connection Economy – Competitive Advantage:  What matters most today and how we got here”, Keith Coats, argues that The Information economy is giving way to the ‘Connection economy’ and the rules of the game are shifting and consequently the drivers of competitive advantage.  He senses that authentic connections – inside and outside your business and emotionally intelligent Leadership will be key success factors.


Amongst the Tomes written on Leadership, “Authentic Leadership” has featured for many years.  My hypothesis is that the increasing transparency inherent in our buzzing social media means that Leaders who are not authentic will be found out more quickly and will be ever more damaging to enterprise effectiveness. So what is authentic Leadership? In the J-B Warren Bennis series book “Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value” Bill George (former chairman and CEO of Medtronic)


considers five essential dimensions of authentic leaders – purpose, values, heart, relationships, and self-discipline. Authentic leadership occuring when people within an organisation see the story of the leader, the story of the organization, and their own stories converge into a single story. When leaders know who they are, they are able to facilitate this by articulating a vision in a believable way. Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones include Authenticity as the second element in their “Community, Authenticity, Significance, Excitement (CASE)” Framework . I am becoming increasingly convinced that thoughtful application of Social Media by senior people in enterprises can have impact on all 4 CASE dimensions by improving connectivity provided that (using the Goffee and Jones approach), Leaders exploit its potential to:


  • improve their understanding of the business situation,
  • “disclose” relevant insights on themselves,
  • maintain a balance between get close and keeping a distance (depending upon the specific situation)
  • communicate well crafted messages that are appropriate to mass disemination


More than twenty years, Warren Bennis, the Leadership Expert, wrote  that authenticity is evidenced by the stories told about them – about their actions, conversations, connecting, how they handle mistakes, their openness to feedback and disagreement in creating solutions, and their capacity to inspire followers rather than about what leaders state about themselves.


Where can we look for examples of such authenticity? Recently, both the McKinsey and The Economist and have referenced examples in the military that I believe illustrate authenticity.


The “Leadership Lessons from the Royal Navy” paper in the McKinsey Quarterly includes the following practical illustration: “…. one of its ships ran aground, triggering the largest and most dangerous flooding incident in recent years. The Royal Navy’s investigating board of inquiry found that “morale remained high” throughout demanding hours of damage control and that “teams were cheerful and enthusiastic,” focusing on their tasks; “sailors commented that the presence, leadership, and good humor of senior officers gave reassurance and confidence that the ship would survive.” How much time do the Leaders and Managers in your enterprise devote to providing reassurance and confidence to individuals engaged on challenging tasks? Would effective use of social media help Leaders achieve this “connection” with geographically distributed teams?


Moreover, how aware are your leaders of the tasks that people are finding challenging? The Economist Schumpeter article “How to Make a Killing” recognised that managing risks and making decisions quickly under pressure are useful skills for entrepreneurs and suggested that army experience is a foundation for the successful high-tech start-ups in Israel. The article also places an emphasis on an Officer learning “to gauge the mood of his men’ and women. With the widespread adoption of social media we have great opportunities to improve the connections needed to achieve this – both internally and externally. Indeed the emergence of analytical software (for example allows increasing amounts of data on customers and corporate performance to be exploited efficiently, effectively and consistently to improve businesses performance – particularly where it is used as part of an Enterprise’s management reporting / monitoring and evaluation process. That said, lets use social media to raise our visibility and to quote Tom Peters “March Towards the Sound of the Guns. People have to see who they are working for and who they are dealing with.”


To conclude: as our economy continues to evolve we need to “think anew and act a new” and authentically build our connections so that we improve our enterprise effectiveness and are not individually or corporately “caught-out” by greater transparency.




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