Leadership .... anyone?


I wonder if I haven't missed something vital.

 We have web2 which is going to afford freedoms, collaboration, sharing, democratic voice.  I love everything about this.  It fills me with optimism because this vision is based on a wonderful model of humanity - favouring and drawing on its best aspects.

The thing which concerns me a little is that I feel that in this new networked world, and in many of our discussions, the focus is very much on what is expected of the membership organisation. How can organisations increase engagement, inspire innovation, enable the networks to develop and grow fruitfully....? 

What about the responsibilities of the members?  If members are to have this new ability to voice and share their opinions at what point does self-reflection shift toward the individual members and their contributions to the organisation?

The standard membership mindset is to look to the organisation as a provider of some sort and to judge whether the leadership is filling those requirements.  The danger is that with the abilities we now have to make our views widespread through blogs etc the leadership of member organisations comes under what could be considered unproductive pressures.  In politics these pressures are seen to be part of the deal, but is the same true in schools for example, which can be considered member communities too?

Schools are increasingly looking at conducting 360s on Headteachers.  The dangers here seem clear.  Start making leaders run their organisations by popularity politics and you can easily end up with wishywashy/autocratic leaders and/or dominant members. 

What exactly do we NOW expect from leadership both within the organisation and within the membership? How do leaders remain open, listening and inclusive while still actually leading?  Every time a leader says 'no' to something she or he now runs a much greater risk of meaningful fallout - particularly if the 'no' is directed at influential members.  It happens all the time. Your child doesn't get through the audition, is kept in school as sanction, is kept as sub....

Are members, by potentially immoderate use of new tools for sharing, in danger of turning leaders into smiling managers or just invisible semi-enablers?   

 I really hope not. 

What I do hope is that more leaders will blog and stay open, regardless of the dangers... and that more members will become self-reflective and responsible.  I agree so much that the first stop for creating a membership organisation, as so many have said on this site already, is to take care of the human needs first... and create a supportive Connection Culture, which works both ways.  http://thrivingtoo.typepad.com/thriving_too/2008/04/connection-cult.html

"I believe we must place much greater emphasis on what I call 'the learning society' - a society that learns to listen to itself, reflect on itself, and create new possibilities for its future." Richard Harwood 

 Pic from http://www.marmar.nu/photography.htm





Connection Culture


An e-book I wrote entitled "The Connection Culture: A New Source of Competitive Advantage" was recently published by changethis.com.  My Google Alerts picked up your blog post because you used the term "Connection Culture."

In the speaking, writing and training my colleagues and I do with organizations, we specifically outline the responsibilities of both members and leaders.  As you say in your post, responsibilities go both ways.  Provided that members have received the benefits of membership (including the Vision, Value and Voice elements in a Connection Culture), they have the responsibility to give their best efforts to execute the decisions made by the individuals who have been given decision-making authority.  We also tell leaders that they need to be careful about going against the consensus view because the consensus is usually right. That's not always the case, however.  Leaders should be held accountable for the decisions they've made so that if in their judgement the right decision differs from the consensus view, they need to make that decision and "Committed Members" have the responsibility to execute it to the best of their ability.  When Don Regan ran Merrill Lynch in the late 70s, Regan made the decision to launch the Cash Management Account (CMA) even thought the vast majority at Merrill was against it.  The CMA turned out to be a major innovation in financial services and a huge success for Merrill Lynch and its clients. The consensus is not infallible.  It was a consensus that executed Socrates and elected Hitler.  It's wise for all of us to keep these examples in mind.  

A Connection Culture provides the best political, economic and social system to make and execute decisions.  For more about the Connection Culture, you can download my free e-book at this link: changethis.com/44.06.ConnectionCulture

All the best,

Michael Lee Stallard


E Pluribus Partners

Greenwich, Connecticut 

Thanks Michael for your

Thanks Michael for your response - big fan of your model.


re: Leadership ... anyone?

Tessy - your reflection on the role of organisational leaders, and members, chimes with some of the issues raised at today's NCVO membership conference. One strand was about the need to make clear offers of services in marketing to members ... but another was on mutuality of relationship. Marriage was used as a metaphor by one speaker. We also talked about membership as a "badge of honour" and the increasing potential for members to network with each other, with little or limited support from the centre. That suggests members will need to reflect upon their responsibilities and commitment to each other.

Thanks David for your

Thanks David for your interesting comment.  I am curious about the difference between members and customers and this definition seems important.  Customers seem to  people that buy your product or service and largely don't need to be connected to one another.  Members seem to be people to 'join' something for a 'mutual relationship' as you describe, with both the organisation and the other members.  The difference is community I think?

 There are a number of businesses which attempt or have already tried to create online communities with customers, forums etc.  When the motivation for creating these communities is to sell more to the existing customers then I think this can diminish some of the genuine membership communities... Or not? What do you think?

When people refer to the 'membership offering' it seems once again that the judgement is one sided i.e. what can the organisation do for me.... rather than what we can do together? 

Customer and members

This is interesting stuff, and we need a framework for thinking about the nature of different relationships. Fascinating cross-overs. Some brands command strong affinity - e.g. Apple "customers" feel more like a club and community. Some organisations just treat members as consumer/subscribers.

I'm particularly interested in what attitude organisations have in making their "offer". Is it marketing or engagement?