Leadership 2.0: Rediscovering Leadership

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Leadership is one of those words that can do without the dictionary, as only a handful of people are in want of its meaning. The word is so much in common usage that it ranks among the so-called household words. And the reason is not far-fetched: leadership is ubiquitous; leaders are everywhere. Yes, the father heads the family, the principal administers the school, the community head ensures order therein, the governor pilots the affairs of the state, the pastor pastures the flock of God, the president presides over matters of state, the Pope oversees the Holy See. What more could the dictionary say about leadership if not to restate the obvious.f course, the unintended consequence of the above thinking about leadership is that it causes one to identify leadership with headship, to equate leadership with administration, to restrict leadership to positions of authority, to domicile leadership in America’s White House, Nigeria’s Aso Rock, or Britain’s 10, Downing Street.

A sequel to the above is that one is forced to characterize leadership by the mannerisms in which those hitherto identified as leaders conduct their leadership business. Therefore, because the head of the family is wont to wielding the rod at the slightest provocation, the growing child gets socialized into thinking that rod wielding is integral to leadership; because the principal of a school lords it over his or her teachers and students, some students may begin to think that ‘lordship’ is a corollary of leadership; because the pastor of a church threatens to rain down fire from heaven at the slightest infraction of church rules, faithful followers begin to imagine that it is part and parcel of the leader’s job description to secure conformity through the issuance of threats and sanctions.

The preceding exposition aptly captures Leadership 1.0. In the Leadership 1.0 era, leadership was equal to headship; leadership was synonymous with lordship; leadership was resident in the head that bore the crown and the legs that wore the shoe. In that era, too, there was a clear-cut distinction between leadership and followership. Here, while the leader takes both the frontline and first position, the follower can at best be second; while the leader dishes out orders, the follower takes them and orders themselves accordingly; while the leader is blue-blooded, the follower has the usual red blood. For every groundbreaking feat, for instance, while the leader points to the ground, the follower breaks it.

However, gone are the days of Leadership 1.0. Welcome to the era of Leadership 2.0! Call it Advanced Leadership if you like. Mind you, it is not advanced for its sophisticatedness; it is advanced for its simplicity. It is advanced for its openness, making it possible, for the first time, for anyone who is interested in leadership to become one – blueblooded or red-blooded. As much as the father, a child can be a leader; as much as the CEO of a multibillion dollar company, a janitor can be a leader; as much as the Pope, a catechist can demonstrate leadership; as much as the master, a slave can have a bite of the leadership pie; as much as the ‘leader,’ a follower can have a taste of leadership.

Leadership 2.0 is a total rethink on leadership. In it, revolutionary thinking was brought to bear on the all-important enterprise of leadership. In fact, it is a revolt on Leadership 1.0. And the essence of Leadership 2.0 is to democratize leadership, to make it “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” It essentially distils out the core of leadership, and goes on to strip it of all the addenda and paddings that make it heavy and complicated.

What, then, is Leadership 2.0? Inspired by the works of the likes of John Maxwell and Robin Sharma, Leadership 2.0 locates leadership in one word, INFLUENCE. And the choice of this one word is not far-fetched, as every manifestation of leadership, even in the Leadership 1.0 experience, is built on it. By the way, ‘influence’ simply means “the power to affect, control or manipulate someone or something. Although ‘influence’ is significantly wielded by those who occupy positions of authority (the leaders of the Leadership 1.0 era), it is not at all their exclusive preserve; Leadership 2.0 insists that anyone, just about anyone, can wield ‘influence.’ This, of course, is another way of restating the fact that anyone can be a leader.

A classic example of Leadership 1.0 Vs Leadership 2.0 is the discovery of the external installation of elevators. El Cortez Hotel is one of San Diego’s famous hotels. Once upon a time, the hotel management decided to install an additional elevator to better serve guests. While the contracted engineers came up with complicated designs that called for cutting holes through each floor of the hotel, which, of course, will cost the hotel a fortune, and pile up mess for the janitor to clean up, the eventual solution came from the janitor’s comment: “You could build the elevator on the outside of the hotel.” Here, we learn that even janitors are capable of thinking outside the engineering box; they mustn’t have bagged an engineering degree, or registered with the engineering council.

A more ad rem example of Leadership 1.0 Vs Leadership 2.0 can be gleaned from Thomas Edison’s laboratory, in J.P. Morgan’s words, “where genius resides.” At 31, Edison already had about 400 patents to his credit, and had become one of the greatest scientists ever. The zenith of Edison’s scientific feats was the perfection of electricity. But it was the Direct Current, inferior to the later Alternating Current. Guess what? Both electricity current designs were developed in the same laboratory: Edison’s. However, while the boss (Edison) was responsible for the inferior one, D.C., the apprentice (Nicola Tesla) was responsible for the superior one, A.C. And when apprentice reported his development to boss, apprentice’s noble development was talked down on; Edison told Tesla his A.C. design couldn’t amount to much. The long and short of it is that Tesla’s A.C. later edged Edison’s D.C. out of the market, went on to crash the party on Edison Electric Company, and remains the electricity standard till date. In Leadership 2.0, as already stated, apprentice can do as much as, and even better than, boss.

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