Registration is now open for my annual SXSW report going live on March 16.
About a decade ago, I served on a World Economic Forum (WEF) council on new models of leadership. Back then I thought a lot about how our world was moving from the hierarchy to the heterarchy.
My thinking at the time for the WEF was influenced by how I was an active experimentalist in using the power of electronic communications to close the distance between leaders and their constituents.
For example, in 2008 I may have been the first chief executive of a university to host an internal blog where I could “talk” with anyone in the organization out in the open. To increase transparency even further, I created an “anonymous Tuesday” where participants could say whatever they wanted to me with full anonymity. Needless to say, Tuesday became a popular day for my community to watch to see what would happen. Eventually I needed to shut the blog down because I realized the world wasn’t ready for such a paradigm shift yet — things like Twitter hadn’t yet taken hold.
The advantage of being able to easily connect across an organization means that the “head” of an organization can actively feel the pain in their arms, knees, fingertips, and toes.
Engaging in those practices led me to think about how important it is for executive leaders to connect “up and down and across” the hierarchy upon which they sit. Otherwise they can quickly become overbiased by what only their topmost leaders are telling them. In times of stability, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But when a leader becomes too insulated from a conflict with tens of organizational layers that separate a boss from reality, it’s easy for the signal-to-noise ratio to be so high at the top that by the time an urgent issue bubbles up, it’s beyond repair. The advantage of being able to easily connect across an organization means that the “head” of an organization can actively feel the pain in their arms, knees, fingertips, and toes. It means that they’re able to decimate…