Corporate Finance & Governance

Is leadership dead?

Point Yes! At least according to Emmanuel Gobillot in his latest book, Leadershift: Reinventing Leadership for the Age of Mass Collaboration. He says four major trends are working to make leadership irrelevant unless we are ready to make some major changes -- a shift, if you will.

The four major trends are:

  • Demographics: multicultural, multigenerational, big differences
  • Expertise: Your expertise and value creation may take place outside your organization in co-creation and networks that go beyond your organizational boundaries.
  • Attention: Your organization might not have the attention of your workers if you cannot provide them coherence and cohesion. They will find it among other social networks readily available.
  • Democratic: Think about the new dotted lines of matrix organizations. The new model is that we are devoid of positional power, leaders need to find new ways to engage people. When the social, intellectual and informational capital of an organization no longer sit inside a leader's span of control, democracy takes over.

The question he asks is, "Why would anyone want to be led by you?

So how should you shift?

Emmanuel says leadership is about engagement, alignment accountability and commitment. In this new environment, the old ways of leadership are not working the same way they once did. Factor this in with the rapidly changing and turbulent environment and it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Emmanuel offers some hope and answers.

Leaders need to be able to facilitate more conversations in our organizations. We call this "network leadership." Emmanuel offers four big ideas to help you think about what this new approach might look like:

  1. Sense and simplicity: Leaders need to think about making meaning and simplifying things.
  2. Narratives: Leaders need to contribute to the narrative and help weave the stories of the organization together and spread them.
  3. Tasks: Roles are less important in an age where the work can get done anytime / anywhere. Focus on the work tasks and who needs to help get it done and less on formal hierarchy.
  4. Love: If you don't love what you do, leave! Connecting to people's emotions and creating a safe and productive environment make for much better productivity. Period!

When I saw Emmanuel at the Association DigitalNow Conference in April 2010, he closed with one big question for all leaders:

Have you made your followers feel stronger and more capable?

One more thing: Emmanuel is speaking at the AICPA / CPA-SEA Interchange Conference in Pasadena, Calif. This conference is being chaired by someone who represents the new style of leadership. She is the COO of the Maryland Association of CPAs, a friend and colleague, and my right and left arms. This post is dedicated to her (and I know she will hate me for this). Thanks for your leadership and leadershift, Jackie Brown!

Now go get this book and let me know what you think: Is leadership changing? Will the old ways of working still work in this "new normal?"