Leadership can be examined from the perspective of Marshall McLuhan’s famous media tetrad. Using the tetrad, explained by Derrick de Kerkchove, co-author of McLuhan for Managers — every technology has four effects:
1. extends a human property (the car extends the foot)
2. obsolesces the previous medium by turning it into a sport or a form of art (the automobile turns horses and carriages into sports)
3. retrieves a much older medium that was obsolesced before (the automobile brings back the shining armour of the knight);
4. flips or reverses its properties into the opposite effect when pushed to its limits (automobiles, when there are too many of them, create grid lock)
Looking at leadership in an age of pervasive networks, both creativity and design are extended while command and control mechanisms like executives, AKA ‘the C- suite’, are made obsolete. Reality TV turns budding executive interns into public media characters. Meanwhile, the art of storytelling as a leadership skill is retrieved from the past. But this form of leadership, when pushed too far, can reverse into cultural purges that attack anyone in disagreement with the cult of the new, especially as the lifespan of organizations continues to decrease.
The tetrad can be used in many ways and it affords us some discipline in looking at the effects of new technologies and forces us to examine multiple possibilities. Connected leadership in the network era has a variety of facets and there is still much to learn.
Extract from adapting to perpetual beta