Visit Us On
Being a creative organizational architect is a crucial competence for leaders/influencers in any organization. If they like it or not – leaders are always social architects, constantly designing and prototyping the patterns of organizing in their organization - consciously or unconsciously, and more skillfully or less skillfully.
A shaping leadership style with a mental model of "I can manage xyz" will create a different environment than a framing leadership style ("I trust that my people can solve this"). And a capacity building leadership style ("I create the conditions for change to evolve") will create other opportunities (using some helpful characterizations by Deborah Rowland). It is important to understand how leaders operate and how their actions (and omissions) are channeling the energy in their organization; after all, their actions create or diminish for example spaces for creation or innovation.
In leadership development programs we call this capacity "Leader as social architect", and the specific skill we call "Organizing for inclusion" - Social media bring the opportunity to involve more people faster in all three dimensions of a dynamic strategy process - strategy generation, formulation and execution (Roland Deiser, 2009). If you see strategy as a collective learning journey then it is vital to be in touch with the whole system, and social media are an enabler in this.
However, while a lack of organizational social media literacy may be a limiting factor here, I think that the major inhibitor is the leaders' mindset. Do they believe in co-creation? Do they trust in the experience and competence of their people and the extended eco-system? We still can see big leadership conferences in global organizations, featuring 200 people in an auditorium with fixed rows of tables who have to sit through hundreds of PowerPoint slides for 8-10 hours a day, followed by a "social evening". There is no mindset of engaging or co-creation at such events - no space for joint exploration or even co-inspiration. If even physical meetings are designed to disengage participants, then we don’t have to be surprised that not much happens online.
So I think the first thing is to build the mindset of the leader as social architect. This can be done by exposing leaders to new experiences, but it will only be effective if these experiences are reflected and if there is the courage and encouragement to experiment and try out something new. To quote a leader who took the risk of redesigning his global all-hands meeting into an interactive virtual session: "We had lots of positive feedback from our remote locations, because they felt to be an important part of the all-hands meeting for the first time." In this case, it was the leader's mindset that had shifted and had allowed for a more inclusive meeting. While this may be a small start, I believe that this is how change works: start fast, explore by doing, probe, reflect, and do the next step. The path is being created as you go. What matters is to be mindful and do the first step, and to stay mindful as you move on from there. Once organizations create encouraging new experiences like this, they embark on a way towards an increasingly free flow of knowledge across the organization.
Social media can be a catalyzer to accelerate this path if we address the "Leader as Architect Skill" as a question of mindset first. Once a leader has the clear intent to involve his or her organization in dialogues to generate, formulate and execute strategy, the tools and the media are out there - and in large organizations, the technical experts will be there whom the leader can consult and instruct to provide solutions for the communication challenge and intention at hand. Today many leaders don’t ask their media experts because broad involvement simply is not a part of their mindset. It is my hope that the six skills global dialogue will help to put social media engagement on their radar.
Leaders need to make sure that their organizations are designed to encourage self-organized horizontal discourse and exchange.
At the same time they must mitigate the risks of irresponsible use through smart policies and vertical accountability frameworks.