Torill Iversen

Om ledelse, IKT og sånt


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E2.0 Summit, gender and leadership

Last week I was attending the Enterprise 2.0 summit in Frankfurt. The conference had some good topics on the agenda, and it made me reflect, both during the conference but also in retrospect  by reading the really good blog-posts which has been written.

This was my first Enterprise 2.0 conference, so I can`t compare it to others. Anyways, I will try to sum up my thoughts in this post, well aware of that I am not able to keep the same level of links, references and so on as the professional consultants/bloggers, still… I give it a try.

My impression in general is that E2.0 for a long time has been technology driven. By that I mean that there has been a huge focus on the software, and not on the organizational effort, or the need for cultural and behavior change that is required to implement E2.0 successfully.

Those expectations lead me on to what I find surprising when it comes to the actual content of the conference, – the focus leadership got throughout it all. I am the first to recognize and agree that a new kind of leadership is called upon, but it was the fact that this was so “new” for many, I found really interesting. Lee Brynant  (@leebryant ) held a really good presentation “New forms of Leadership” where he talked about new leadership skills and changing towards network-centric management allowing people to lead themselves. Later on I attended a discussion were the focus on letting people manage themselves, and trusting your employees was identified as typical female values of leadership.

I am starting to wonder if there are any connections between the appearance or lack of appearance of female presenters and the focus the “leadership”-topic got on the summit as something new. The idea of collaboration and sharing of knowledge seems to tend over to the “soft values” for leadership, because it`s about the people and culture, and actually make people growing. There is nothing new to this kind of leadership, it should be incorporated in every leader’s leadership-platform, E2.0 or not.

Still I believe that this is an area within leadership that many find difficult to handle. It is much easier to relate to budgets, ROI, Business Value, Risk management and so on, than actually have to handle people and make them grow both as employees but also personally.

My own interest in leadership within E2.0 is actually the strengthened opportunity I as a leader have to impact the people I lead. As I have described in earlier posts I see an E2.0 leader’s role as to spread visions, provide feedback, develop and communicate organizational culture, and motivate knowledge workers for knowledge sharing and to work together across organizational structures. For a leader this is a unique way to communicate and to “listen in” on the existing culture and then again be able to guide and correct. The E.20 platform within an organization will give a much bigger amount of people you can reach and lead, with the less of an effort (comparing to managing by walking the floor.)

That this actually were a topic on the summit, makes me think that the E2.0 world ( as I know it) is maturing, and is overcoming it`s technology focus, heading into a broad business perspective.

The business perspective was also addressed in Gil Yehuda (@gyehuda) talk “Preparing the Workforce”.

Selling E2.0 in to the top management has been proved to be difficult. Where is the proof of the return on investment, how does this bring on value, what will the organization gain out of this?  They speak another language and Gil stressed the importance of using the same words and business language as those your are trying to get on-board.

This sounds like a natural thing to do, but I must admit I have been talking about social media and shared knowledge, and what I believe in. But it was an eye-opener in that sense that I could easily see that is not a convincing language to make an organization go onto a road of big cultural changes.

I think this is one of the reasons that’s makes it difficult to get organizations to understand the actual business value of implementing Enterprise 2.0. The spoken goal has always been those effects which are difficult to measure, amongst others: increased collaboration, information sharing and innovation abilities, and not the ROI and so on.

Another topic which appeared is the question if E2.0 and it`s decentralized leadership is a step into taking away the hierarchy in organizations. I am having difficulties to see how this can be a topic at all. E2.0 and a new type of leadership is about enabling people to do their work, within those borders, limitations and directions which are set by the management. By letting people organize their own way of working, the leader can gain time and opportunities to practice more leadership, and not just management of the workforce. Sure;- giving your employees more information power might feel like a loss of own power, but a good leader will and must be able to adapt to new situations. Just as many already have when it comes to lead gen-Y, knowledge workers and so on.

The key bullet points?

I believe the best solution is to take the better of the two (gender?) worlds:

  • The “money talks” for getting our management on board
  • The “soft values” for leadership – and proving the results/effect of E2.0.

In addition to these vague thoughts around the whole topic around gender, leadership and what is considered value – I met a lot of really good people, whom I am looking forward to engage with in later discussions, or just solve the rest of  the world problems with ( those we didn`t solve already) 😉

 

More presentations from the Enterprise 2.0 summit 2009

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