Why the future is in peer leadership

By | July 23, 2012
…and how we can maintain an overview of a messy system of intertwined leaders

I love this diagram. It tells us what management now, and in the future, is about: not leading, but recognizing and managing who leads what. It's a diplomatic peer leadership model.

On one of the posts drifting by my stream, the following sentence came up:
"P2P is two things to me – a larger solution set affording better paths to the future and a levelling of the playing field, for the pursuit of liberty, cocreation and happiness."
 – +John Kellden

I'd argue that P2P in this sense is not talking about peer-to-peer as in file sharing, but about person-to-people as in localized leadership. Not only is it better for morale when each person takes the lead on what they do best, but you also obtain better results faster at the end, thanks to cutting the 'I need to read up on this first' phase.

A good question, on the other side, is how to capture an overview of activities in a peer leadership model. An interdependence on digital collaboration tools certainly makes this easier: indexing and searching become powerful instruments of utmost value in finding out what is going on within a successful organization. But what about the enterprise dashboard?

Why the enterprise dashboard needs to change
Enterprise dashboards typically imply a top-down control system: each leader must model their leadership to fit the paradigm of the tooling that feeds the central dashboard. But that is annoying and a waste of time – and thus at best a time-delayed snapshot on what is going on; at worst full of complete bullshit. Can we do better?

I think the answer is yes. And that the answer lies in the crowds: crowdsourced knowledge tends to deliver excellent insight into hot trends without time-delay within the new paradigm. Two of the most powerful tools in analysing the loosely structured collaboration style of new media are:
 – Word clouds: Wordclouds, such as those created by wordle, are excellent ways of highlighting what is currently trending within the digital information sphere of an organization.
Ratings: Trust employees to rate content they find good. Their largest concerns, and most important issues, will find their way to the top – as long as an internal system provides a mechanism for users to provide their feedback on blogs, forums, or any other internal system being used, and assuming that the organization climate is condusive to allow member feedback in a digital environment.

/via +Ferdinand Zebua 

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16 thoughts on “Why the future is in peer leadership

  1. Robert E. del Sol

    +Michael Kelly  You make excellent points… Hyperchange affects everyone in the enterprise ecosystem (not just leaders) so even with the best of highly skilled and trained leadership teams, if hyperchange were so easily dispatched, the current state of global management outcomes would not be in such turmoil. hyperchage IS a (perhaps THE) major "contributor to some of the economic downturns being faced currently.  In my opinion, most management and leadership models are under-equipped to successfully absorb or deflect the effects of today's hyperchage realities. Whether or not p2p approaches are up to this challenge is left to study.        

  2. Michael Kelly

    +Robert E. del Sol The fact remains that a traditional leadership pyramid has its own flaws that p2p leadership seeks to address.  

    Traditional leadership structure means that strategic understanding tends to be greatest at the top of the pyramid and lowest at the bottom.  However, tactical understanding also tends to be greatest at the bottom and lowest at the top.

    The problem is that setting strategic objectives without full understanding of the tactical reality can be just as dangerous as setting tactical objectives without full understanding of the strategic reality.

    By creating mechanisms to identify and transfer subject matter experts to the top, you at least lower these issues.   Further, by identifying where perspectives differ, you can address your issue with risk.  (Though I would argue that the goal should be increasing opportunity relative to risk, not simply to run from risk…which is a long post of its own as I believe that is part of the contributor to some of the economic downturns being faced currently)

    Additionally you address a weakness with leaders that the organization is not only able to reap the benefits of his/her strengths, but subject to his or her weaknesses/biases. 

    I do NOT however, believe that p2p approaches are as vulnerable to hyperchange as you charge though.   If nothing else, hyperchange is usually easier to see at a tactical level first before it shows up on the strategic map.  Further, given that hyperchange is often unforeseen (by nature), breakdowns in feedback and communication up the pyramid means that there is a larger % chance that it would be missed entirely.

  3. Robert E. del Sol

    +Sophie Wrobel volume or frequency of hyperchange is relative to the ability to cope. Shared group leadership is demonstrated only to the degree that risk impacts outcomes as weighed differently by the individual participants. Thus, (potentially) in group leadership, the higher the risk the lower the capacity to lead and ability to cope by any individual in the group. 

  4. Gideon Rosenblatt

    For those of you who don't know him already, +Michel Bauwens is an amazing resource in the field of P2P. Check out: 

    Thanks for this great post, +Sophie Wrobel. It's making me think of all kinds of stuff, but I think the most relavent to the point you're making is around distributed leadership. I did some work a few years back on "engagement pyramids" – the intensifying layers of engagement through which we interact with organizations.

    At the very top of the pyramid framework was leadership – not because leaders sit at the top of hierarchical org charts, but because I believe developing leadership is the end goal of all engagement. It's about creating leaders throughout the organization, and leaders engage others and build more leaders. It's distributed. It's developmental.

    And it's hard. That's the other reason leadership is at the top of the pyramid, because the number of people who truly fulfill its potential are few, in percentage terms. Just because it's not hierarchical, doesn't mean that everyone has the desire, capacity and drive to get there. 

  5. Sophie Wrobel

    +Robert E. del Sol How often a change qualifies as 'severe hyperchange'? I think that 'person2people' is a natural classification of the sort of group leadership that arises regardless of culture homoginity or lack thereof – this is the kind of like the classical 'executive secretary' who ends up facilitating communications with whomever shows up on the doorstep. Depending on how rampant hyperchange is, I can see the model breaking down though.

  6. Robert E. del Sol

    It is easy to confuse shared group consensus with shared group leadership. Seems that true leadership is not this simplistic. Evidently +Ralph Mendoza not everyone in an organization (or "tribe") is willing or capable to accept leadership roles in equal measure to the next person. From experience, I have observed that when everyone is in charge, no one is in charge. +Sophie Wrobel the 'person2people' model works well when a homogeneous group culture and clear general objectives exists. Not so much in dynamic environments or organizations under severe hyperchange.      

  7. Ralph Mendoza

    Would love to see a peer to peer organization and how it would work. Some places have too many chiefs and not enough people doing the work. 

  8. Christian Schmitz

    I am pretty sure that the "leadership riddle" will not be solved until someone magically discovers a way to stop those most unfit for leadership due to lack of character being those who aspire leadership positions most vigurously.


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