What will technology do to the leader’s role?
Leaders have always had the role of model for those who work for them, at least for the good things they did. Now they have to consider what is needed in a world where subordinates are partners, where the rights of the worker have been increasingly protected, especially in the West, and where the accoutrements of slavery have been outlawed. What does the new digital world demand of its leaders that less frenetic times didn’t?
Our underlying values remain constant – or do they? Or have they? I don’t think so. In my lifetime the concept of humour has changed, even the rather sardonic British humour I was brought up with. Oscar Wilde is still around but not much among the young. Comedy is now raucous not witty. Views of God have changed, though in unpredicted ways, and religion has continued to be exploited for political agendas as it always has been.
Our sense of property and possession remains fairly intact, buttressed by the law which loves to keep things complicated. But even that is changing as boat people and pirates see others’ property as legitimately theirs. Freedom of speech may not be universal but ability to speak is now available to all, 24/7/365. Overwhelmed with information, the average person is even more vulnerable to the snake-oil merchant than in Barnum & Bailey’s heyday.
The purpose of sex has changed dramatically from procreation to recreation. Happily the place and position of women has improved, too, though there is still a long way to go. The role of gender may not have changed as much as appears but its open acknowledgement is a new phenomenon. The purpose of life has altered in the last century. Money represents the measure of success as never before and the means of making it have become more ruthless. Service, as seen by the Victorians, is regarded as rather passé by many of those who would give it, because they – perhaps understandably – confuse service with servile.
Perhaps the biggest change of all is in the position of Authority, the Leader. Still with adulatory attention from those who see personal advantage in kow-towing, the majority regard most leaders as corrupt or inept or both. It makes the exercise of leadership increasingly difficult, especially as news headlines report those who deserve criticism and ignore those who lead well. There is still an overwhelming number of good people leading organisations, usually without publicity or acclaim.
Being open-minded about technology and tolerant of core belief changes is, in my opinion, little more than patronizing. We have to embrace the changes, unless we profoundly disagree with them. Even if we do disagree we need to examine our objections with a common-sense approach, to understand others’ points of view.
Bottom-up management is the solution to all advance, technological, commercial and moral. Even in our schools and universities we should be learning from the youngest. That way they will learn to teach, the ultimate achievement of education, the greatest role of a leader.