Nearly every aspect of organizational science is being challenged by the emergence of social business media. The definition of leadership, in particular, is changing. The idea of leader as super star fits well into a paradigm of top down command and control hierarchy. But in the flattened organization leadership is a role that many people must play depending on the initiative and the context. In a connected company people are working in a context of open engagement that enables rather than controls. The capacity to transition between leading and following in a spontaneous manner is a quality that will be understood as critical to leadership.
It’s hard to see this from the old paradigm of management. In 1969 Marshall McLuhan said, “An environment becomes fully visible only when it has been superseded by a new environment; thus we are always one step behind in our view of the world.” Leadership in the 21st century will be measured not by the individual but the capacity of the organization to see beyond the immediate horizon.
To achieve this community quality the idea of leadership becomes meaningful at every level of hierarchy. Leadership is a frame of mind one takes in making choices. Every decision has an impact on the organization as a whole and leadership in a connected company implies an understand of all concentric rings of impact.
Organizations are living communities and every situation will require an empathic understanding of its unique context. While that skill may be more present in certain individual, leadership moving forward will mean the capacity for all involved to act quickly on those cues and to learn what is unique about the situation.