Turning Private Assets Into A P2P Business Model

An analysis of the evolving (and stagnating) discussion on leadership.

learn more about Dr. Jamal Boukouray

By Dr. Jamal Boukouray


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This story is about one of the oldest and longest joint ventures ever known in management history, one of the strangest unions between a human-centered concept and a virtual chameleon. Leader and leadership: two iconic notions that became over the years, if not centuries, synonymous to everything and nothing around the world. Not only there is no unanimous consensus among scholars, professors, personal development trainers, management gurus, and leadership party-planners on what leadership assets stand for, we now have to deal with a whole new challenge, agreeing on the blood type of another heir apparent called LIDA (Leadership in the Digital Age). While the divorce has not been announced yet, it's only a matter of time before the breakup and split-up become officially public.

If spending countless hours of hermeneutics explaining the different roles each clan (leaders vs. managers) has to play in the day-to-day management is already a mind-consuming ritual, wait till you run into chapters dedicated to the newly coined and elected board members of this heterogeneous and artificial union called LIDA (Leadership 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, dLeader, eLeader, vLeader). Despite the novel factor in the above listed replicas, it doesn't really take many years of R&D to realize that this merger between two decayed concepts is bound to fail. Recycling vintage leadership styles, concepts and obsolete frameworks is completely inadequate for our digitized culture, and is not compatible with open source ideology, which is disruptive and contagious by its very nature.

While the first theories of leadership were concerned with the divine status of leadership, its innate vs. acquired nature, modern corporations are nowadays mostly concerned with competitiveness, mass-production, crowd-consumption, global reach and continuous community presence: similar ideals, but different business models and customs. To compensate the shortage of "leading managers" or "management leaders" that could curb social, economic, digital literacy and human rights around the world, many digital tycoons, entrepreneurs and shareware-conscious advocates are taking the information and communication technology (ICT) revolution to new territories, where the leader is neither the heliocentric point of gravity, nor the highest ranked officer on the corporate pinnacle.

There are at least three main demerging factors driving the neo-leadership wave. The first driving force is the emergence of community dynamics as an essential constituent of conducting business. It is no longer a matter of autonomous and separated corporations serving a whole range of products or services to disconnected or dislocated prospects, consumer-citizens or audiences. The second factor driving this new wave is related to the dilution of individual attributes from the leader notion into a more societal model. Open source ideology and the tech knowledge culture of sharing is built on chain-value creation and common production of content. In opposite to mainstream leadership theories, the new leader is no longer the majority shareholder of leadership assets. The emerging trends in community-oriented revolve around cooperative thinking whereas trait-based models are focused on the character. In other words, what used to be private assets or qualities attributed to role models are becoming publicly traded assets, and to a certain extent, socially responsible business models.

Image credit: Shutterstock.

Individual actors of change are increasingly scarce or visible within the new open source culture, as the new breed of social innovators are kicking out classic models of leadership from lateral organizations and structures. Peer-to-peer (P2P) collaborators, innovators and entrepreneurs are leveraging their expertise in crowd-sourcing, crowdfunding and community management skills into a new form of complex adaptive business models where the community's value creation is the cornerstone of collaborative thinking.

By flattening vertical management scaffoldings and breaking the last pyramids, we are finally starting to see different horizons. It is now possible for complex adaptive organizations to be leaderless, orchestras without conductors, bees without a dancing queen. Social networks and digital media are rich with P2P applications, products, services and community-oriented business models (mutual hardware, shared software, shared sources of knowledge). From bike sharing to Uber cars, there are so many thriving business models to choose from.

If the web was the tipping point, stepping up from the Information Age to the Knowledge-Sharing Era is our first entry ticket into communitism id est, a new participative era that is neither socialist or communist, but simply community-oriented. Complex adaptive systems are prone to thrive where Marxist-Leninist revolutions failed to succeed. In the rising new world order of voice, video and big data, social innovation leaders are more likely to keep on affecting our growing ease with the virtually real. Internet penetration around the world is already substantial in many parts of the world, let alone social network sites. Whether you are at home, at the office or on the way home on the train, staying connected is a top priority among all the hierarchical needs identified by Maslow. Leading from inside or outside, from the smartphone or from the desktop, from the boardroom or from the sewing desk, in person or via WikiLeaks, we have never been this close or accessible to all voices as we are nowadays.

Image credit: Shutterstock.

It's time to break away from the linear thinking and determinist frameworks, which are being increasingly commoditized through imitation games by motivational speakers and coaching franchises. The redundant and overused dichotomy between leadership and management is neither conducive nor relevant. Here are some tips and tipping points on how to separate the wheat from the chaff:

Rule 1 Think of corporations as a network provider that must stay tuned to its evolving and adaptive ecosystem.

Rule 2 The leader as a majority shareholder of leadership is no longer a viable or suitable concept for collaborative economies and P2P-oriented organizations.

Rule 3 Leadership in the digital age is a not about being a tweetmaster or a great blogsmith; it's about corporate responsibility and sustainable development. Mission statements must be not be geared towards us at the HQ but toward the others: inbound-outbound glocal communities, shareholders, stakeholders, personnel, collaborators and potential markets.

Rule 4 Stop thinking of leadership as this big bash, a boot camp with braincatering toys. There is already enough confusion over what leadership is all about, let alone the troubling bond between business leadership, party-planners and the leadership business in the numeric era.

Image credit: Shutterstock.

Rule 5 Leadership is not an imitation game or a cloning contest. It is no longer a set of ethical, semantic or semiotic attributes attached to a human canvass or a solo performer; it is a public asset highly valued in what becomes part of the corporate culture. The lexical semantic traits that use to define "Great Men' are increasingly embedded in value-added propositions or virtuous circles that are fundamental features and constituents of mission statements. Brandbuilders and big players alike have become the biggest storytellers and recyclers of the mythological traits.

Rule 6 There is no need to buy augmented reality glasses from Magic Leap to see leadership in 3D, as leadership has been fragmented into smaller neutrons that cannot be assembled manually or downloaded through new upgrades. In other words, let us not waste time on 2.0 and 3.0 acting studios.

Rule 7 Next generation applications and robotic breakthroughs might possibly accomplish mind-blowing tasks faster than any smart human, such as answering questions in hundreds of languages around the clock to so many enquiring minds on remote-placed handsets. Furthermore, by leveraging leader-sharing power and know-how into some kind of open source leader-ware, neo-self-help community-oriented generation are poised to play a decisive role in turning P2P relations, brain-to-brain-computer assisted communications and other new discoveries into expandable living-learning-ecosystems.

Rule 8 Let us remember that current trends in social innovation leadership are unlikely to soften or stop the ongoing disenfranchisement of leadership processes, applications and metamorphosis, as huge number of care-and-share initiatives, corporations and kickstarters are already swayed by the new way of combining social with the fortune.

Leadership in the digital age is like wireless clouds. While we don't care about the location of the base stations, or the closest leadership antenna, we care about the spectrum bandwidth. As long as we are within reach, very few mobile citizens of cyberia will ever look at the skies above Manhattan to see where the microwaves are hanging. Wherever G4 or LTE goes, interconnected users must be within reach. Modern LTE standards should apply to modern corporations if they wish to stay connected to their online and offline communities.

Dr. Jamal Boukouray

Senior Professor, Management of Innovation, Complexity & Organizational Change, ESCA Ecole de Management, Morocco

Dr. Jamal Boukouray is the Senior Professor, Management of Innovation, Complexity & Organizational Change at the ESCA Ecole de Management in Morocco.

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