Nearly all men can stand adversity,
but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
- Abraham Lincoln
A professor of mine once mentioned in passing that the tasks of leadership were different in pre-industrial society, in post-industrial society, and now. That was intriguing, but I could not find anything about this topic in sociology literature, literature about leadership, or history; I someone must have researched this. Here are some questions the topic evoked:
- What type of leadership skills does tribal society call for?
Tribal Society – family groups with common language & customs. The leaders tended to be elders (those who survived) and those religiously sanctified (who carried oral history). They guided a small unit of culture; influence was the capital of power. Workforce is united in extended-family groups with similar functions.
- What type of leadership skills does agrarian society call for?
Agrarian Society – larger groups in distinct social classes (those who work on the land and those who own the land). Land was the major source of wealth and power. More elaborate political institutions like a formalized government and legal system evolved. However, land was largely individually owned and was often inherited (governmental power was held by the land owning aristocracy). Workforce is united in local/regional groups with similar functions.
- What type of leadership skills does industrial society call for?
Industrial Society - produce finished goods, in a continual state of rapid change due to technological innovations. People start living in cities and urban areas. Status and power can be achieved in corporations, political parties, and government bureaucracies. Workforce is divided into workers and managers with disparate functions.
- What type of leadership skills does post-industrial society call for?
Post-Industrial – service based economy, professional and technical workers, use of technology for formerly manual processes, higher education. Roles become less defined in the name of efficiency, arts and ideas become part of economic market, rather than relegated to fringe hobbies. Status is achieved through service innovation that leads to a broad, and/or wealthy customer base. Workforce is divided into discrete teams at all levels, some with similar functions and some not.
- What type of leadership skills does digital society call for?
Digital Society – accessing information 24/7; blending of international news, socializing, work, entertainment, and social action. Status is achieved through celebrity and technical innovation that is used by huge masses of people at all economic levels. Workforce is fluidly and vaguely divided (individual contributors and loosely connected groupings) to address tasks, which determine the function.
What era are your leadership skills suited to? If not the digital society; what skills, intelligence, and presence do you need to cultivate to be an effective leader in our era?
Here is a list to start with:
- Be open to input from all directions
- Care about others’ intelligences
- Embrace change that you did not envision
- Be a synthesizing agent
- Learn to be grounded while moving forward with purpose
- Lend direction through influence
- Share power
- Be internally connected (mind, body, emotions, spirit), flexible, and open to change in yourself
Ideas are not in short supply,
only our willingness to receive them as leaders.
- Paul Extrum-Fernandez