Our lives and work are undergoing extensive, high-velocity change. It’s inevitable that leadership—which is about relationships and relates to all parts of our world—would be transformed. Among the most significant changes is the breakdown of longstanding barriers that defined leadership. For example, individuals holding high positions of power traditionally tended to be distant from the those they served. Today, anyone can find a way to communicate with almost anyone else through new technologies. Such individuals no longer have the zones of privacy that separated their personal and professional lives. Elective politicians have been experiencing this new world for some time. Corporate and NGO officials are now liable to be held to account in the same way. The new trends are part of a transformational change wrought by digital technology. In the 20th Century interactions were generally transactional. Now, by contrast, we’re in a web of relationships. Those relationships can be established or defined by individuals rather than by large public and private institutions.
The ongoing empowerment of individuals and previously isolated or marginalized groups through new technology has accelerated the longstanding trend toward leadership exerted through influence rather than domination or dictation. That doesn’t mean that the world has magically become a utopian paradise or democracy. It does mean that leadership roles are subject to greater accountability, and the tools of workaday management and service are in transition.
“Organizations exist to serve. Period. Leaders live to serve. Period.” -Tom Peters
Everyone Can Lead
Many people associate “leadership” with high positions. Thus, presidents and cabinet members and legislators, along with CEOs and other prominent business executives, are routinely called “leaders.” In fact, such individuals may or may not be leaders in any meaningful sense.
“Twenty-first-century leaders inspire others to alter their thoughts and actions, in alignment with an empowering vision.” -James Strock
It is in this sense that one can declare, “Everybody can lead—because everyone can serve.” New technologies provide individuals with capacities to serve that are truly unprecedented.
“When your ultimate concern is those you’re serving, your vantage point necessarily is from the outside-in, not the inside-out.” -James Strock
Become an exceptional communicator
Communication has always been central to leadership. Many of the greatest leaders have been great communicators: Lincoln, Wilson, the Roosevelts, Kennedy, King… and countless others.
Today this phenomenon is, if anything, even more pronounced. As leadership becomes more and more relational, rather than transactional, there are heightened expectations and opportunities for communication. Importantly, the necessity for effective communication reaches far beyond high positional leaders. For example, sergeants on duty in a faraway place may be scrutinized by journalists or subject to cellphone recordings from civilians. How they handle the situation could affect the safety of the soldiers and others within their immediate responsibility. It might also have consequences far beyond if their actions or explanations become matters of concern to policy makers.
One constant throughout history is that the most consequential leaders not only communicated skillfully through the media at their disposal, they also came to personify their vision. At the summit of influence, their every action, gesture or word moves into service of their greater cause. This is at once an extraordinary accomplishment, opportunity and burden. It requires a unity of life and work, of thought and action, an overarching integrity. It can unleash greater powers in oneself and others than one might have previously imagined. It can result in a comprehensive transcendence of the self, and a relinquishment of the illusion of control over one’s fate.
Service To Others
Service to others is the foundation for happiness. This refers not to shallow notions of happiness, such as being amused or experiencing fleeting pleasure. It relates to the deeper happiness that can come from serenity, from a clear conscience and open mind as implicated in meaningful service and sacrifice.
“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” -Mark 10:43
The Book Of Mistakes by Skip Prichard