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Is Your Leadership Style Right for the Digital Age?

This month’s Gifted Leaders e-Newsletter features an article from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School newsletter, Knowledge@Wharton. The authors assert that the digital age requires new ways of leading. The autocratic commander, even if they are brilliant, just won’t cut it anymore. Effective leaders are finding that open and agile organizations are able to maneuver more effectively than organizations where all insight and direction comes from the top.

Highlights from the Article

In today’s digitally enabled and hyper-connected environment, employees and freelancers want ownership, impact and recognition, rather than to follow instruction; and customers want to participate in the marketing and development process, rather than be told what they want and why.

Attracting, satisfying and retaining these connected and savvy stakeholders requires leaders to learn some new tricks – but there are rewards. Businesses and leaders that adapt to this new environment can see economic payout with higher profit, growth and valuations.

Most leaders are already able to employ several of the styles below. Co-Creation, though, is still a rarity and is arguably the skill set most needed in the digital age.

  • The Commander sets the goal and tells others how to accomplish it. This works well with machinery, which happily does what it is told, and with direct subordinates who prefer to simply execute. It is less effective with employees and customers who want choice and participation.

  • The Communicator also sets a vision and a plan, but communicates it in order to inspire and create buy-in. This works better with employees and customers who want to at least understand where “the firm is headed.” It enables them to take action in line with the leader’s vision, but it does not encourage innovation.

  • The Collaborator works hand-in-hand with customers and employees to achieve the organization’s goals. As a result, it is empowering and enabling. This style taps into the innovation of people and drives the creation of new intellectual capital.

  • The Co-Creator allows other stakeholders to pursue their individual goals in parallel with the goals of the organization. This results in both rapid scaling (due to the high level of participation) and innovation. This style is at the heart of network companies where value is shared by the company and the network participants, such as Airbnb, Uber and

Relationship Between Business Model, Leadership Style and Value

For many leaders, co-creation can be uncomfortable. Given that network-based businesses are the most highly valued and profitable companies in today’s digital world (see Figure 2 from the article), what does it take for a leader to co-create? The answer: the ability to relinquish control and the willingness to share the value created with the crowd.

If you are a leader of a traditional company or industry, you may be thinking that Co-Creators are great for digital start-ups, or even existing membership based businesses, but not really applicable to you.

However, research suggests that there is much to be gained by increasing your leadership skillset to include Co-Creation, even if you aren’t a network company.

The argument for leaders to co-create is an argument for profit, growth and value creation.

Read the article here.

The Gifted Perspective

We believe that leadership is a collective capacity that is widely distributed. It extends beyond the formal, positional leader or leaders and is a shared, co-constructed function that encompasses vision and strategy as well as day-to-day policies and procedures. Collective leadership invites and embraces a diversity of perspectives and relies on the intelligence and wisdom of the entire group or organization.

We also believe that everyone in an organization is a leader, regardless of position or title. So with these things in mind, the “Co-Creator” leadership style described in this month’s featured article is an essential skill set for all of us to develop.

The Leadership Learning Community says it nicely: “Collective leadership is the process of many people working together and aligning their efforts to achieve greater impact.” That sure sounds like co-creation!

Let us help you develop the mindset and skill set required to be a co-creator!

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