IBM THINK Forum – Optimism, Outrageousness and Smart Sense-Making on Leadership

Barcelona - MontserratOne of the topics that has been in my mind at the moment, within the context of the Social Enterprise, has been that one of Leadership and how, through the use of social software tools, we are now going through that rather exciting phase where traditional management / leadership, i.e. the hierarchical organisation, is starting to mix and mingle with a new kind of networked, interconnected leadership of wild ducks, trust agents, i.e. intrapreneurs, to perhaps help facilitate and create a hybrid of what could be defined as the Leadership of Tomorrow. One that Carmen Medina nicely defined as full of Optimism, Outrageousness and Smarter Sense-Making.

A few days back you would remember how I put together a blog post around the topic of Leadership as Servanthood, as part of some of the highlights from the wonderful IBM THINK Forum event hosted in New York City not long ago. Well, today, I am coming back for more, as one of the short speeches from the event has been making the rounds quite a bit talking about some of the traits from that new generation of leaders that is emerging at the moment in the current workplace. This time around the pitch is coming from Carmen Medina herself (Former Director, CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence), where, over the course of a bit over 4 minutes, she comes to talk about some of the lessons she has learned throughout her career about being a leader within a knowledge organisation.

Some pretty powerful stuff in there, for sure! Priceless quotes like how optimism is probably the greatest act of rebellion, or how each and every organisation or business out there has always been having a whole bunch of heretics who they couldn’t do anything about. Not even today. How instead of trying to put down those heretics companies would probably be much much better off listening and understanding them better, as they are very willing to help fix their problems as an organisation.

Her second priceless lesson is one of those that when you first hear or read about it certainly would make you think about things twice, more than anything, because of how brilliantly it challenges and questions the status-quo. If not, have a look. Here is the exact quote as she mentioned it: “The only way to make an impact in an organisation is to be really outrageous“, which, when combined with lesson #1 (Optimism), can surely be rather powerful and engaging.

Lesson #3 is actually even more provocative. On the topic of making sense of today’s complex knowledge world to try to make and reach the best decisions, as a leader. But I am not going to spoil it further for you folks out there, you would have to watch the remaining of the video to find out some more.

And while you are at it, I would also like to point you in the direction of a recent blog entry that she put together at the Building a Smarter Planet blog under the heading “[…] On the Importance of Sensemaking” where she lays, quite nicely, the main challenge for today’s leaders as follows:

The contest is not between competing camps of knowledge workers or between us and the machines that we construct. Instead, the contest is between the reality we have and the future we might attain, and sensemaking will be one of our most important aids in making progress.

So our future depends on the ability of leaders to transform the organizations they lead as quickly and effectively as they absorb powerful new technologies–and in sync with the capabilities of those new tools.

Goodness! That’s quite a challenge, don’t you think? So right there it looks like Carmen has put together three different key lessons about leadership in today’s complex workplace, and societal environment: optimism, outrageousness and sensemaking. But what I find really fascinating from her speech is the fact of how such a traditional knowledge organisation as the CIA has always seen, and embraced, the key paramount role of knowledge creation and knowledge sharing, and collaborating through the use of social networking tools!, as one of the most powerful methods out there to help make better informed decisions to tackle and fix specific problems.

Thus, if the CIA has been capable of proving how critical the role of social networking is, both internally and externally, for those knowledge sharing activities, what’s our excuse? What are we doing to help facilitate the leaders of today become the networked, interconnected leaders of tomorrow who would inspire the remaining of the knowledge workforce in this Knowledge Ecology that seems to have become more and more prevalent by the day? Why do we keep forbidding the use of social tools behind, and outside, of the firewall, or why some of our leaders of today are somewhat scared of jumping the shark and joining the conversation? It’s just as well as if we had invented the telephone just today , and people would want to keep forbidding its use, doesn’t it?, but a few decades later still remains a critical, unquestionable tool for communicating and collaborating together. Well, guess what? Social networking tools should be no different. For any knowledge worker out there. Even for our leaders.

Maybe, we / they need to be a bit more optimistically outrageous, don’t you think?

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