Guest post by Mark Mueller-Eberstein, co-author of “No Fear: Business Leadership in the Age of Digital Cowboys”. Good timing, having just experienced a bit of what Mark describes in a recent trip to China.
Organizations and society are transforming at radical speed. How can leaders keep up? Are t hey afraid? For sure we are. But can work ourselves and our organization into an environment of a “No Fear business”.
We all have learned that “Knowledge is power”. That stays true even in these new times. But in the decades past, the person of influence was the one who controlled information and expertise and was holding on to knowledge. This person could turn knowledge into power. A successful strategy for the 1980, but not true anymore today! The information advantage of today is outdated tomorrow and teams value their leaders by their contribution to the knowledge creation of the team.
Our world is changing in breath-taking speed. In the last 5 years there has been more knowledge created than in the 5,000 years before combined. The change in the effectiveness and the speed on how people communicate and collaborate accelerates the creating of knowledge exponentially for those who are used to leveraging and leading the transformation.
People, have grown up with the knowledge and entertainment society and who cannot remember a time without the internet or mobile phones. We call those with the highest experiences of connectivity, access to information and need for authenticity the “Digital Cowboys. They are now not only entering the workplace, but often leading organizations and teams. In the “western world”, we have a demographic where these young “Digital Cowboys” are still a relatively small minority in our organizations and especially in the management ranks. For us here, there are enough “old school” managers available to fill the open positions in the second and third tiers of management . Very different situation in demographically “young” countries like Russia or China. With 60 to over 70 percent of the population being under 30 years old, the digital cowboys are in all ranks of today’s organizations.
That holds true for both organizations native to these countries, but also western companies building subsidiaries and partnerships there have no choice than bringing the “Digital Cowboys” into leadership positions and therefor transforming not only the front-line of their organizations, but also the management and leadership teams themselves. We have just seen the first small wave of the globalization, the mobile revolution and consumer driven economy. The “digital cowboys” are networked by nature and they dare to question the value created by those who are supposed to lead them – even in public and for all to see on the internet. Scared, yet?
Typical questions: If expectations and rules are so different, how do I as a leader of today have a change to make money with these arrogant, restless youngsters as employees or customers? How do I lead them within modern and future proof organizations?
Uncertainty often results in fear. And leader need to decide quickly whether you learn and act without fear or put your head in the sand. More and more successful leaders have confronted these fears and turned them into insights and strengths for their and their organizations’ future.
Challenges are out there. Just being ”Fearless” is more a sign of stupidity than courage. With deep understanding and an attitude to embrace the change, people can overcome the paralysis or hectic over-action driven by uncontrolled ”fear”, achieving “No Fear” leadership. These leaders are free of fear in their objective decision making and ready to cease the opportunities, achieving success.
A key asset of the US are some of the best research and education institutions, but also a culture that fosters critical questioning, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. There is only on Silicon Valley or Harvard, but the importance has been recognized by others as well. While Facebook, Amazon, EBay, Twitter and LinkedIn were invented in the US, similar platforms exist today in Russia and China with much higher adoption by the local population than the American originals there.
Opportunities are plenty and both an individual’s and an organization’s growth will be highly rewarded by the market. While western markets have mostly matured, the majority of the golden growth opportunities are generated by either new service innovations (sometimes combined with physical products) or by an exceptional performance in the so called “emerging” markets. We have just seen the start of how mobile technologies are changing “work” and the broader societies and riding this wave will make or break organizations. As leaders, the way we engage, motivate and become ourselves “Digital Cowboys” will be the deciding factor for our and our organizations’ success.
Transforming ourselves and our organizations will be the critical management and leadership task for the years to come.
The key for an individual and an organization’s success is a holistic approach to deep-dive into the leadership challenges and solutions of present and future leaders. It builds a picture for today’s corporate world to successfully master the challenges of tomorrow with a truly global and people oriented way.
About the author:
Mark Mueller-Eberstein is the co-author of “No Fear: Business Leadership in the Age of Digital Cowboys” with Pekka Viljakainen. They are engaging with the readers of the No Fear Book at www.nofear-community.com. Mueller-Eberstein is also a Professor is teaching “Change Management” at Rutgers University, is the CEO of the strategy consulting company Adgetec Corporation and bestselling author of “AGILITY: Competing and Winning in a Tech-Savvy Marketplace.”
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