The purpose of this paper is to look at how the nature and contribution of leadership is evolving in step with developments in the environment and our organizations.
The authors argue that a collective or network leadership strategy is most suitable for the information age. This is based upon research and executive education and consultancy engagements with a range of organizations around the world and draws upon published research by the authors. They share further a case study of a public sector organization in the UK working to implement a network leadership strategy to transform a complex, bureaucratic structure into a lean, agile and knowledge rich one.
Organizations need to let go of previously held notions of leadership in order to embrace a new leadership concept and strategy more suited to today's environment. Future organizations will necessarily rely upon knowledge‐intensive networks of highly connected and autonomous talent, empowered to rapidly converge on singular intersections of common interest without guidance from above. Such co‐ordination will not be achieved through centralized command and control, but through network leadership – in effect, self‐direction in the interests of a common purpose and guided by shared values.
Enabling coalitions, coexistence and collaboration within and across networks will be the characteristic qualities of the new leadership.
This article is of value to organizations seeking to transform their capabilities and structures to embrace the contribution of the many and not simply the few. It addresses issues resonant with all organizations, irrespective of sector or geography, and argues that leadership in the information age requires us to challenge many closely held truths such as the inimitability of natural leadership qualities and traditional methods of work organization in favour of network‐based approaches.
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