What new leadership looks like

Last week I was lucky to hear two fascinating talks: from Bill George, HBS prof and author of True North, and Wael Ghonim, the Google employee and internet activist who energized pro-democracy demonstrations in Egypt just over a year ago.

The theme that emerged for me was distributed leadership. George spoke about IBM’s collaborative organizational structure and shifting definition of leadership. In a workforce of 440,000 employees, he described IBM as cultivating 40,000 of them for some kind of leadership role. Ghonim focused on current and future challenges for Egypt and pointed to the importance of the many “ordinary” young Egyptians in the uprising — while disavowing narratives that position him as the movement’s hierarchical leader. (Good NPR review of his book, Revolution 2.)

The point about the death of command-and-control and emergence of new, global organizational models is not a new one. What was striking to me was two such different men with vastly different life experiences, both underscoring the imperative of reaching that conclusion.

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