December 18, 2010
The Merits of Leading from the Middle
One of the true advantages I have seen developing within organizations, which utilize Social Media as a true enabler and game changing method of hypercommunications for their people, is the emergence of the leadership philosophy of “Leading from the Middle”.
Through all actors within and around the entity, both internal and external, working in a connected fashion, the organization and it’s leaders benefit from the eyes, ears and thoughts of all of those involved. The below video from Cisco explains the concept, ramifications and benefits of this emerging technology facilitated leadership approach.
To be clear, “Leading from the Middle” is not in any sense abdicating leadership authority or responsibility, as in any case, the final decisions and outcomes are still made by and reflect upon the leader or leadership team.
However, instead of those who choose to just lead from the front or the top in relative isolation, those who choose to lead from the middle harness the combined benefit of all organizational insights, information, knowledge and collective intelligence available to assist in making better, perhaps even the best, decisions possible.
One of the most interesting historical examples of the need and benefits of exercising a more delegated and distributed leadership style was in the case of Henry Ford.
After much initial success with mass production methods following his invention of the assembly line, the Ford Motor Company grew by leaps and bounds which quickly came up against Henry Ford’s individual and very singular leadership style. His insistence on making every decision and initially refusing to even add a second model almost destroyed the company.
Fortunately he was influenced by his son Edsel and others to change these ways, beginning delegation and a new methodology for model changes which continues in modified forms today. Based on somewhat relinquishing his autocratic ways, he began to delegate more and more authority and as we say the rest is history.
What is being put forward here is of course much more than just traditional delegation approaches and creates a virtual loop of inclusion, empowerment, influence and recognition between leaders and followers, resulting in ever increasing and lasting organizational excellence.
Add to this the nature of these hypercommunications as being both two way and interactive, one can see the how utilization of this on a many to many iterative basis for both internal and external communications has real potential for vastly improved processes and outcomes.
Massive organizations like Cisco and Best Buy are building these social media communication tools and methods into the very cultural DNA of their organizations and they facilitate a scalable and sustainable model those in public service might consider following.