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How Leadership is Changing in the New Networked World

by Dave Hannon

May 13, 2011

By Dave Hannon


Like it or not, the continuing wave of new technology from mobile apps to social media to analytics is changing business from the bottom to the top – the very top. Leading a business organization of any kind today is not the same as it was only a few years ago. The successful leaders today are leveraging new technology to streamline, motivate, communicate, and innovate in their organizations. And the leaders who choose to ignore technology and continue to use the same leadership strategy they learned in business school 25 years ago? Well, frankly, many of them aren’t leaders anymore.

Not surprisingly, this concept is embraced heartily in the IT organization. According to a recent survey of CIOs conducted by talent search firm Harvey Nash, almost three-quarters (74%) of CIOs polled believe that if they don't innovate and embrace new technology their company will lose market share. That holds true internally for leaders as much as it does for the product developers.

For example, thanks to the explosion of mobile technology in the past few years, many business teams today can be spread across the globe, either temporarily or permanently. So as a leader, how do you manage, motivate, and mentor the members of that team? As Jeanne Meister and Karie Willyerd, cofounders of Future Workplace, describe in this blog post on the Harvard Business Review’s site, technology can both separa te teams and bring teams together. They highlight Bob Taccini, a 52-year-old vice president of finance at Cisco Systems, as an example of a “traditional” business leader who has learned to leverage video and social media technologies to help lead his organization. Specifically, he has adopted the use of a video blog to communicate with team members.

"It has been one of the best ways to communicate, supplemented by calls with everyone in my reporting chain," Taccini said. "Even though it's not two-way real time, I get more participation from the vlog. My team sends questions, and they also have Web spaces to create collaboration spaces."

Deloitte CEO Barry Salzberg does a good job of describing changes in leadership in this Knowledge@Wharton piece, saying leaders today must be transparent, especially in today's socially networked world. "In today's social media environment, it's fascinating to see how in 10 seconds what you say is spread throughout the organization. There are few hiding places." And that’s a good thing. Right? RIGHT?

Of course, leadership is not only about collaborating internally, it’s about leading a business successfully. Another example of how effective leaders are leveraging new technology can be seen a bit “closer to home” in the SAP world: executives leveraging dashboard capabilities to manage their business based on business intelligence and less on “gut feeling.” Most recently, insiderPROFILES profiled Colgate-Palmolive’s use of executive dashboards. “For the first time, many of the company’s business leaders are running BI tools — in this case, dashboards — to monitor the business to see what’s going on at a high level,” explains Ruben Panizza, Colgate’s Global IT Director of Business Intelligence (BI), Master Data Management (MDM), and e-Commerce.

(Inside scoop: Be sure to look for another story on executives using BI in the next issue of insiderPROFILES).

And lastly, one tip I’d provide to leaders looking to leverage business intelligence more effectively – BI is not only useful for internal operations but also customer-facing efforts. As this Accenture survey points out, many companies are not effectively using analytics in customer-facing operations. “Most firms largely focus on using analytics to better understand the customer's value to the organization and much less on the organization’s value to the customer,” says Julio Hernandez, global lead for customer analytics at Accenture.

As always, I welcome your thoughts on how leadership has changed in the wake of new technology. There are examples everywhere around us and I’d love to hear yours.

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