Conversations on "Connected Leadership in a Digital Age."


Our Leadership Dialogues Series has matured. It started 2016 with Stanley Deetz visiting from the USA. Semira wanted to introduce him to her clients. So, the long conceived idea for a conversational event connecting our clients came to life. I invite a select and small group of clients to join a conversation about leadership and organization. There are no groomed lectures or slides. Appreciated colleagues and experts initiate the leadership dialogues by sharing their latest ideas and experiences – matured and thought through but with rough edges and inviting questions.

Last week, we had an extra-ordinary event our second Leadership Dialogue this year at the Barrios LoungeMannheim: Luis Suarez, panagenda, as a guest expert on "Connected leadership in a digital age." Luis and I connected over twitter (@elsua, @semirask) almost ten years ago. We took our conversations offline and online again. I had invited Luis to participate in our series long before Covid-19 hit. Convening this summer, the topic of "connected leadership" has become more relevant than ever.

It was a first and genuinely hybrid event in these times of the Covid-19 Pandemic. We organized a safe environment for our in-person meeting as a group of eight to be almost open-air with open window doors. Luis joined us from Gran Canaria via MS Teams. We had only once minor connection issues - thanks to which we have this screenshot:

Luis Suarez - only minor connection issues once

Hybrid - Event - MS Teams and collocated event

Early on in our conversations, we concluded: Facing and experiencing technological changes - and now unable to deny the accelerating impact of the pandemic on the digital workplace - many leaders and organizations still struggle immensely to deal with the implications all this has for their way of working. Failing to adapt fast enough to a new way of leading and organizing collaboration also is a pervasive observation of my 20 years of training experience for virtual leadership. More and more studies emerge that testify overall positive results of home office work during the pandemic, showing not only negative impacts on gender equality (e.g., DAK-Studie 2020 zu Home Office). The first corporations make substantial changes in the workplace. Siemens, e.g., announced a "New Normal Working Modelβ€œ in spite of many reservations even expressed by tech companies like google, not to forget - Marissa Meyer's turn-around for home office at Yahoo in 2013 or IBM's in 2018.

We had a lengthy debate as to what to expect and what to think of the increased use of home office work. Given that many leaders and organizational cultures have not evolved as fast as technology has, what can we do? How can we prepare the next generation of leaders?

Leadership Dialogue with physical distancing

For this part of the dialogue, we decided to continue the conversation in the future (and hopefully safely face to face) and search for helpful mental bridges that enable multipliers, distributed leaders, and teams to have an impact on changing "the conditions under which they operate" (Luis Suarez).

We turned to a truly inspiring set of questions that help answer: "What is my role in a distributed network leadership context?," or "How do distributed network leaders thrive?:

  1. What would "listening" as a "connected leader" be like for me, and how can I become a better listener?
  2. Being role models for "working out loud" (in the original broader sense of the word) involves transparency, authenticity, and vulnerability. How can I put this into practice vis Γ  vis strangers?
  3. How many communities do I belong to today? How do I behave there – am I more active, more passive? How can I become more active?

Luis, it has been a great pleasure and a very inspiring day for us all. Thank you so much again!

Powerful topics have sat with me now for a week, and I am taking them with me to my current projects!

I have already introduced some new aspects of how I view leadership into this week's German "Leading from Home" web-based exchange. I will tell more once we had the English session of "How to deal with crises fearlessly" on August 5th!

Comments (1)

  1. Luis Suarez:
    27.07.2020, 16:41

    Hello, Semira,

    Thanks ever so much for having me as a guest speaker at this Leadership Dialogues event. It was just wonderful being with you folks, even if virtually. I know I was supposed to be there face to face, but I guess COVID-19 had other thoughts in mind. It would have been really nice to have spent the day with you all, but I'm glad we had the opportunity to accommodate with this hybrid approach of the live audience attending on-site while I was attending virtually. Thanks a lot for making it possible!

    I learned so much from the many conversations we had and reflected upon with the rest of the audience that it would be a bit of a challenge to condense all of the ideas we talked about in just a few words, but you have done a fab job with the blog post shared above. Well done! πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

    To me, the dialogue was about amplifying something as important and ever so critical as Leadership (And how we differentiate it from Management). Starting off with our different definitions and understandings behind Leadership itself and what it means for each and everyone of us, how we apply it, how we live it, etc. etc.

    From there onwards it's the amplifying effect taking place by talking about 'Networked Leadership' and its many ramifications, where leaders then become active listeners, not just themselves, but through their own networks that they have been already cultivating and nurturing through those open interactions day in day out. Conversations have become the new currency.

    Thus, so far, we have got Leadership. Then Networked Leadership. And, finally, we have got Distributed Networked Leadership. COVID-19 has provoked that those very same leaders become a whole lot more open, public, transparent, visible in their interactions and conversations through narrating their own work, making it more visible, as they, too, have become distributed. Eventually, by opening up they would be doing something they may not have done before, but that it will become critical from here onwards: building community.

    It's through that Communityship that we would have the ability to make better sense of the complex world we live in, and even more so to have a better understanding of how work has now shifted for good where social networks and online communities have become the new operating model, and, as such, Servant Leadership has now become a whole lot more relevant to how leaders need to connect, share, learn and collaborate / cooperate more effectively not just with the teams they already know, but those that they are yet to meet up, interact with and learn from!

    Like I said, wonderful event all around! So much to unpack, digest and put into practice! Many many thanks for inviting me and look forward to continuing the conversations over time! As I keep telling everyone, we are *just* getting started!

    Bring it on! πŸ˜ƒπŸ‘

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