Organizations face more complexity in the type of work they do, the problems they face, and the markets they interact with. This is due to increasing connections between everyone and everything. To deal with this complexity, organizations should loosen hierarchies and strengthen networks. This challenges command and control management as well as the concept that those in leadership positions are special. Leadership in networks is an emergent property.
In networks, everyone can be a contributor within a transparent environment. Effective networks are diverse and open. Anyone can lead in a network, if there are willing followers. Those who have consensus to lead have to actively listen and make sense of what is happening. They are in service to the network, to help keep it resilient through transparency, diversity of ideas, and openness. Servant leaders help to set the context around them and build consensus around emergent practices.
Traditional management and planning models strive for order and use periodic change management to deal with complexity and chaos. But complexity is becoming the more common state in the network era. This means shifting the focus from analyzing situations, to making constant experiments and learning from them.
Managers acting as servant leaders should spend much of their time focused on complex situations, where the relationship between cause and effect can only be seen after the fact. Actively listening requires an engagement with networked contributors who are closely in touch with their environment. Everyone should continuously question the contexts in which the enterprise is working. Appointed servant leaders have an even greater responsibility to look at the big picture, not manage the contributors, who for the most part can manage themselves when everyone’s work is transparent. Managers can then propose changes and build consensus around suggested responses.
Connected leadership is helping make the network smarter
Here is a recent example of making the network smarter. Canada’s electronic spy agency, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) has just released some of its malware detection tools as open source software, so any organization or individual can better detect threats.
The possibility that CSE’s own tool could be used to detect spy software of its own design, or that of its partners, is not lost upon the agency.
“Whatever it detects, whether it be cybercrime or [nation] states, or anybody else that are doing things — well that’s a good thing, because it’s made the community smarter in terms of defence,” said [Scott] Jones [who heads the agency’s IT security efforts].
Nor does he believe that releasing Assemblyline to the public will make it easier for adversaries to harm the government, or understand how CSE hunts for threats — quite the opposite, in fact.
“We believe that the benefits far outweigh any risks and that we can still use this to be ahead of the threat that’s out there.” —CBC 2017-10-19