Over the last year we have lived through a profound and perhaps epochal shift
in the distribution of power.
- Mark Pesce
Closed and strictly hierarchical systems of management are vulnerable to challenge by the forced transparency of digital hyperconnection and the might of web-connected polities. Mark Pesce is a technology writer, researcher, and teacher who gives vivid examples of breakdowns already occurring in the public arena when hierarchies clash with digital crowds. How do you enact effective leadership in a new, open, and hyperconnected system? Become more flexible and welcome change; move from opacity to transparency and then to permeability – so that crowdsourcing works to your advantage; share your power and be generous in your inclusiveness. In this new epoch, leadership is more about convening and synergizing than it is about commanding.
In our digital era, as Mark Pesce details in his writings and teachings, our hyperconnected-ness (access to inconceivable amounts of information) has led to hyperintelligence (vast numbers of individuals in a network coordinating their efforts), which transforms into action by adhocracies (groups of connected people concerned about an issue), which spreads and replicates itself through hypermimesis (mimesis is learning through imitation). Pesce writes compellingly about how hyperconnected and hyperintelligent networks of individuals using hypermimesis are already smashing into institutions and traditional hierarchies to thwart and disempower them.
The question is:
- As a leader, how can you direct individuals (who are curators of individual knowledge-bases) to become unified polities, and get everyone pulling in the same direction?
Here is what Pesce says:
Top-down hierarchies which order power precisely can not share power with hyperintelligence. The hierarchy must open itself to a more chaotic and fundamentally less structured relationship with the hyperintelligence it has helped to foster. This is the crux of the problem, asking the leopard to change its spots. Only in transformation can hierarchy find its way into a successful relationship with hyperintelligence. But can any hierarchy change without losing its essence? Can the state – or any institution – become more flexible, fluid and dynamic while maintaining its essential qualities?
I propose that the way to lead in this new epoch is by being open to input from all directions, caring about others’ intelligences, embracing change, and being a synthesizing agent. This leadership is about lending direction through influence and sharing power; I would call that generous leadership.
How does this actually work; how is it structured? What are the traits and qualities of effective leadership in this unimorphic system? How can you learn to do this? A good start is to be internally connected (mind, body, emotions, spirit), flexible, and open to change in your self. If you can do that and keep yourself grounded while moving forward with purpose, you may have the ability to do the same with your leadership in outward structures.
…power must surrender power, or be overwhelmed by it.
Sharing power is not an ideal of some utopian future;
it’s the ground truth of our hyperconnected world.
Here is a video of Pesce speaking about this at the Personal Democracy Forum in June, 2009: