DeM Banter: Nice piece from Mr Zwilling….but I honestly worry sometimes about getting too “soft” in our approach to leading—that said, it would seem a leader could hit all the traits below and still be firm, decisive, and visionary… you think?
The reigning theory in business has long been that “alpha” leaders make the best entrepreneurs. These are aggressive, results-driven achievers who assert control and insist on a hierarchical organizational model. Yet I am seeing increasing success from “beta” startup cultures where the emphasis is on collaboration, curation and communication.
Some argue that this new horizontal culture is being driven by Gen-Y, whose focus has always been more communitarian. Other business culture experts, like Dr. Dana Ardi, in her new book The Fall of the Alphas, argue that the rise of the betas is really part of a broader culture change driven by the Internet — emphasizing communities, instant communication and collaboration.
Can you imagine the overwhelming growth of Facebook, Wikipedia andTwitter in a culture dominated by alphas? This would never happen. I agree with Ardi who says most successful workplaces of the future need to adopt the following beta characteristics and better align themselves with the beta leadership model:
1. Do away with archaic command-and-control models. Winning startups today are horizontal, not hierarchical. Everyone who works at an organization feels they’re part of something, and moreover, that it’s the next big thing. They want to be on the cutting-edge of technology.
2. Practice ego management. Be aware of your own biases and focus on the present as on the future. You need to manage the egos of team members by rewarding collaborative behavior. There will always be the need for decisive leadership, particularly in times of crisis. I’m not suggesting total democracy.
3. Stress innovation. Betas believe that team members need to be given an opportunity to make a difference — to give input into key decisions and communicate their findings and learnings to one another. Encourage team-members to play to their own strengths so that the entire team and organization leads the competition.
4. Put a premium on collaboration and teamwork. Instead of knives-out competition, these companies thrive by building a successful community with shared values. Team members are empowered and encouraged to express themselves. The best teams are hired with collaboration in mind. The whole is thus more than the sum of its parts.
5. Create a shared culture. Leadership is fluid and flexible. Integrity and character matter a lot. Everyone knows about the culture. Everyone subscribes to the culture. Everyone recognizes both its passion and its nuance. The result looks more like a symphony orchestra than an advancing army.
6. Be ready for roles and responsibilities to change weekly, daily and even hourly. One of the big mistakes entrepreneurs make is they don’t act quickly enough. Markets and needs change fast. Now there is a focus on social, global and environmental responsibility. Hierarchies make it hard to adjust positions or redefine roles. The beta culture gets it done.
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