There's more to leadership than meets the idea. Traditional leadership is hugely important, no question about that. But we all (yes, every employee) can play a leadership role for the benefit of ourselves and of our company. Here's how ...
Traditionally, leadership in organizations is looked at the following way: A leader is someone who's in charge of a group of people. This leader is therefore logically placed hierarchically higher, as he/she holds greater responsibilities and decision powers. Let's call this "Leadership 1.0".
Today's Web 2.0 has brought dramatic changes, far more action and interaction, far more connectivity, far more "social". At Swiss Re, our Jive platform is called "Ourspace", a thriving collaboration platform that connects the knowledge and the people, allows us to collaborate in a great many ways ... and this is where "Leadership 2.0" comes in. Across the web there are countless examples of experts on any given subject. And most of them are not traditional leaders, they've not been hired for that role, they've not been appointed to that position. There's no hierarchy that puts them in charge of anyone ... and yet they are influencing thousands upon thousands. These are people who are passionate about a certain topic and have consistently focused on it in their blogs, on their websites. Web 2.0 has allowed others to find those experts and their insights. And they sign up for newsletters, they get feed widgets, they follow, they like, they associate. Today the power, the level of influence of these experts, is obvious. They're invited to speak at conferences, they're referenced in news articles, they're sought after by companies, they're targeted by marketers and publishers.
So is Leadership 2.0 better than Leadership 1.0? No! But it's clearly different and traditional leadership - and companies as a whole - can greatly benefit if they start employing some of the 2.0 ways. We have leaders who employ blogs and groups to share more and engage more. Not because they have to, but because they want to. Employees join the groups and read the blogs not because they have to but again, because they want to. And because the leaders take the time to share, employees care more and are clearly more motivated. Some might argue that traditional leaders will get more readers, followers, etc. simply because of their position. True to some degree only. I see leaders who are doing this right - they're sphere of influence grows beyond their role. And I see others who don't engage - the differences couldn't be more stark.
But this goes far beyond traditional leadership. Every employee can lead. I'm a community manager, my daily goal is to motivate and empower. I tell employees: "You have an expertise. You're passionate about it, right? Then you may want to think about creating a blog and/or a group and begin to openly share your passion, your insights, your know-how. Don't think of it as "leading" - simply share what you know, what you see and experience every day, share what you learn and what you teach ... and over time "Leadership 2.0" will happen. Over time people will read your insights and follow you. Over time, your network grows and so will your sphere of influence. Over time, simply by sharing what you're good at and what you're passionate about, you will be a leader."