Irony Rules! Establishment Pushes Change. Leaders Push Status Quo.

There was an interesting irony in my reading this week: The Harvard Business Review pressing a new paradigm for social networking, while a leading Internet site published an entry advocating the status quo. It wasn’t an earthshaking happening – just interesting.  

The website Linked 2 Leadership published an interesting piece titled “When a Leader Goes Rogue.” The article outlines leadership that doesn’t adhere to the organization’s behavioral norms and what can be done to effectively stop it. It outlines the dangers of rogue leadership without discussing the necessity of having rogues in an organization to instigate innovation. It clearly described the activities of managers determined to preserve the status quo.

Innovation requires rogues in order to be truly successful. Traditional corporate structures insure that the status quo stays in place and is not challenged.  The status quo stifles innovation, making change nearly impossible. Organizations require genuine leaders – rogues if you will – to challenge the status quo and make it safer for other employees to try new ideas.

It’s very easy to use cute, inflammatory words like “rogue” to describe leaders. As genuine leaders, we should be careful using emotionally charged words to label unique behavior. Innovation requires unique views and tolerance for new ideas. It’s much easier to call difficult leaders names than it is to integrate and take advantage of new ideas. We need to create safe zones for people to explore new ideas and we need some rogues to help us in the battle.

Harvard Business Review coverNow let’s contrast that with some of the latest writing in the Harvard Business Review. Sometimes traditional messengers deliver cutting edge messages and that was the case this time.

The November 2009 issue outlines an urgent approach to social networking in “Community Relations 2.0.” The authors make a compelling case that every business – certainly those with large profiles – should immediately put in place a social networking strategy. On the positive side, informal networks can accomplish things formal planning rarely makes happen. The article cites patients voluntarily sharing treatment data in order to monitor and develop effective treatments. The richness and timeliness of the data enables physicians and patients to create custom approaches to unique situations.

Dark or Light?

On the dark side, these networks make it easy for communities to mobilize and take action against real and perceived injustices. No longer do companies control their own messages on brands or events. The transparency and ubiquity of networks make it nearly impossible to manage market messages in a traditional way. What once was a broadcast message is now an ongoing dialog.

Organizations must understand and take advantage of the networks. Unfortunately, it’s not technology that most older business leaders use, or even understand. It’s critical that we all understand the trends and make conscious decisions about how we will address the changes in our personal and professional lives. Our future depends upon it.

So it was an interesting irony, with unexpected messengers. We may not shoot the messenger, but we certainly need to beware of their motives!


1 Response to “Irony Rules! Establishment Pushes Change. Leaders Push Status Quo.”

  1. 1 labmgt1
    December 14, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    I would agree that “rogue” is an inflammatory and emotionally charged word – but then so is “innovation”;”change”;”transformation”; faith-based business – my point is that often times words – being living entities – can be emotionally charged for one person and not for another. The key is to use one of the EI skills we teach – which is to understand others. This means to be able to predict whether someone is going to react either positively or negatively to a word or sentence.

    I know that were I to use a four-letter word in my parents home- even now my mother would try to wash my mouth out with soap! However, at my local watering hole, the same word wouldn’t even cause a stir. It seems to me that a good leader knows his/her audience well enough to be able to choose the right word that will convey the message effectively. SMM has the same issues – being able to convey an idea on YouTube or Facebook without causing a problem is tricky at best. As an exec. I would embrace the new medium of SMM, but do so with great trepidation. The wrong word in the wrong place could be devastating. Ask Tiger!

    Mike T.

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