It's Time For Leaders To Follow

With the Social Age clearly at our door step - 1.2 billion people use social media and 4.6 billion carry mobile phones - it is time for leaders to rethink leadership. Why you ask?

For good reasons:

  • In the industrial Age, organizations got bigger in order to become more profitable;   In the Social Age, companies (and nations) can also be powerful – but they have to do it the Apple way - by co-creating with others, and that includes sharing profits with their crowds (like Apple does with its developers).
  • In the industrial Age, business strategies and processes grew out of the notion that bigness was about making lots of things to make lots of money by finding lots of buyers to purchase their goods and services; In the Social Age, it is about the size of social networks (people with common interests, values, passions and connections – e.g. friends and fans), which co-create companies' marketing campaigns, sales leads and new products and services.
  • In the Industrial Age, power was derived from doing everything by the company – and holding on dearly (and closely and in private) for control – to insure, what they hoped would be endless power with limited risks; in the Social Age, it's about being open and transparent as well as having shared values, relationships, profits and ultimately, mutual accountability.
  • In the industrial Age, it was about institutions (both companies and countries) being the center of focus and the source of value. In the social age (including web 1.0 and 2.0 plus mobile and smart devices), the center of value (and power) are social networks and the individuals that belong to the them.
  • In the industrial age, the 1% won, and the 99% lost, because leadership, control and profits was controlled from top down and the inside-out.  In the Social age, the 99% have the tools and size – members of the social network – to regain control as well as the sources of value from the bottom up and outside -in  – and they are beginning to do just that.

Too many leaders still think that their status as leaders gives them the right to lead from the top-down as they have traditionally done (military style with siloed organizations) -- but they are dead wrong. In fact, they underestimate today’s social realities and the power of the crowd.   For example,  the 12 fallen nations (and their leaders) of the Arab Spring, as wells as companies like Best Buy, Borders, HP, RIM and Kodak (and their respective leaders) are all learning the hard way that leaders need to learn to follow.   By continuing to think that leaders can lead as they have done over the last 200 years, leaders are creating unmitigated risks for themselves and their organization.

To begin your journey into the Social Age as a leader, below are some of the questions you need to ask yourself:

1.  What is your leadership style?   Top down or bottom up?

2.  How do you use technology?  To communicate, collaborate or co-create?

3.  What is your approach to innovation?  Insource or Crowdsource?

4.  Which technologies do you prefer?  Financial management or sentiment analysis?

5.  Is your business ready to become an open enterprise?  Yes or No?

To succeed in the Social Age, leaders need to realize that power is shifting from the one to many, from the front to rear, and from the few to the crowd. The bottom line:  if you are a leader (CEO, Board Member, Chief of anything) and you want to succeed in the Social Age - learn to lead from behind and embrace the power of 'Liking, Following and Friending' everyone in your 'network' or risk being fallen by them! Its your choice.

Cailin Darcy