Leading from the Center
What’s the most important quality a leadership will require in the Network Era?
This might be the most difficult lesson to learn for future executives. Power will not be automatically anointed by virtue of title, salary, corner office, or company jet. You’ll have to earn the respect and commitments of the individuals who are connected to you in the network. Hubris will be the fastest way to turn off your most capable, most creative, and best associates. A leader who leads with humility knows how to listen and can tap into the empathy required to fully embrace complex problems by seeing issues from all points of view.
In a strong network of confident allies, when leadership opportunities arise, an individual must know innately how to inspire and guide colleagues toward a collective goal. C.S. Lewis once said, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.” Networks strengthen and grow fueled by a careful balance of self-interest and group interest. When leading in a network, you’re never in a forward position all the time. Sometimes you’re on the edge, sometimes you’re smack in the middle, and many times you’re pulling up the rear.
Real humility is a sign of confidence and courage. It’s a measure of character and discipline. Networks require that you yield in order to shape.
Update: here are a couple of PhDs and some research that validates this in case you’re skeptical.