Open Source Leadership

by  Mike Henry  |  Leadership Development

I’ve been wrestling for the last few days about a new leadership paradigm, at least for me.  I just completed an insightful book called The Future of Management by Gary Hamel with Bill Breen.  I’m also very involved in a Linkedin Group known currently as the Lead Change Group. (I say “currently” because we’re considering changing the name.)

In the Future of Management, Hamel wanted to equip others to create the future of management.  The hierarchical management structure we’re all so familiar with was created for the industrial age.  That age is gone, but the structure remains.  We keep trying to adapt it and evolve it, but evolution is slow and doesn’t seem to affect much change.  Maybe a revolution will serve the cause of leadership better.

In the Lead Change Group, we’re putting together a leadership event, if you will.  We’re all trying to avoid the word “conference.”  My passion is that it not be just-another leadership conference.  I’d prefer it was “not your mama’s leadership conference.” One member quoted Steve Jobs: “We want to make a dent in the universe!”

futureofmgmtGary Hamel went into detail about how the Internet, and more precisely the open-source software community and the Linux community in particular are organized.  He was suggesting an alternative to hierarchical leadership structures so common today.  In an open source community, the mission is primary.  For Linux, the goal of the application is clear. It’s a free, open-source, Unix-like operating system.  There are a few key people who “oversee” what actually gets added to the kernel (source code base) but the development and direction of most of what happens to Linux comes from volunteer members of the development community.  The community votes with their energy and effort what projects get done, supported, tested and implemented.

For less technical subjects, the Internet has become a launching pad for thinkers and a gathering place for communities.  The friction is being removed and more people can become authors and people of influence on just about any topic. Anyone can become published in minutes with WordPress or Blogger or dozens of other platforms.  The competition for ideas is fierce since the medium no longer becomes a barrier to entry.  If you have an idea, share it.  Your ideas and your content must stand or fall on its own merit.  And the Internet community votes or supports ideas with their attention.

Several people with a passion for character-based leadership have found one another at the Lead Change Group LinkedIn community. The LinkedIn group is considering a mission: to advance and apply character-based leadership to make a positive difference.  We’d like to foster, nurture, and enable character-based leadership and we know that can’t be done simply through conversation.  It requires action and results.  We have to collaborate and develop ideas, implement those ideas, evaluate results, revise, rinse and repeat in order to help leaders become the best they can be. We’d like to raise the bar, emphasize the good of leadership and help one another improve our individual corner of the world.

Can we do that in an open-source model?  Can we create a community of leaders that are committed to leadership development without personal agendas, like an open-source project?  Can we become a community that advances anything that has to do with leadership?  What do you think?

Photo © Dana S. Rothstein – Fotolia.com
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About The Author

Articles By mike-henry
Chief Instigator (Founder) of Lead Change Group and VP of IT for a mid sized technology company. Passionate about character-based leadership and making a positive difference.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

perry maughmer  |  08 Oct 2009  |  Reply

I think what you may be talking about is actually a “community of practice”? The concept developed by Etienne Wegner (http://www.ewenger.com/) that he defines as “Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”
This would be engaging for the linkedin group and can take different “shapes” depending on the needs of those in the community.
Great thought provoking post!
.-= perry maughmer´s last blog ..Connecting the dots =-.

Mike Henry  |  08 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Thanks for the link and the reference to the “communities of practice.” Hopefully there will be more and more of them.

Thanks too for joining the LinkedIn group.

Erin Schreyer  |  08 Oct 2009  |  Reply

AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME, Mike!! Way to start a flame…and then put the onus on the larger group to turn it into a fire!! This is a CALL, and leaders who hear the calling should engage! We CAN make a difference, but only if we want to adn only if we put a real effort toward making it happen. What a great start you’ve given us, Mike. Can’t wait for LEADERPALOOZA…and so, the revolution begins…

Mike Henry  |  08 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Thanks Erin for the great comment. I appreciate the energy you bring to the effort. Isn’t this fun?

Roy Atkinson  |  08 Oct 2009  |  Reply

There is definitely something brewing. There are parallel discussions going on in other venues as well—conversations that revolve around community effort to shape something new in the way business (in both the narrow and broad senses) is done.

It will be terrific to see how this develops. Thanks for stimulating it and expressing it so well.
.-= Roy Atkinson´s last blog ..Customer Service Week: Celebrating Your Best =-.

Mike Henry  |  08 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Roy, thanks for the comment. As you and I have experienced, there is a lot of interest in meaningful relationships and community these days. It will be terrific to see how this develops.

Francisco Sáez  |  09 Oct 2009  |  Reply

I think there is an obviuos parallelism in the Open Source Development structure and this Lead Change Group (and other community-based groups), where everyone can contribute with her/his experience to develop a new model of business leadership application. I agree with you current models are a little obsolete in most cases. We can change it with ideas, work and results.

This is a very interesting point, Mike. Thanks for this post.

Mike Henry  |  10 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Thanks for the comment Francisco. I appreciate connecting on Twitter and LinkedIn. As long as we all keep sharing and cooperating with one another we’ll make a difference.

John E. Smith  |  13 Oct 2009  |  Reply

Hi, Mike

I like the direction you are heading with this concept of a more “user-friendly” leadership model.

As I scanned the various comments on this, I was impressed by two things:

1) The caliber of the folks responding-you are attracting some very high-energy and thoughtful folks to this issue. I firmly believe that the value of something can be determined generally by looking at who is connected to it.

2) Your responding to each and every person. This personal touch style of leadership is underrated, not often practiced especially in the larger corporations, but costs nothing more than a few minutes of our time.

As for the larger issue of open-source leadership, I say “why not?” We have been talking for some years about moving away from the model of leadership as connected to a specific role or title and have increasingly focused on leadership as something that can and should be practiced at all levels by anyone who takes the iniative to do so.

I look forward to the next steps in this venture.

.-= John E. Smith´s last blog ..Stepping Out Into Nothing . . . =-.

Mike Henry  |  13 Oct 2009  |  Reply

John, thanks for the comment. We are finding a large community of people who long for character-driven ethical, principled leadership. As you noted, they are passionate, high-caliber folks and I’m honored to get to hang with them. I’m glad you’re a part.

It’s fun and energizing to be a part of a community where people are contributing to the welfare of the whole on a particular subject, such as quality leadership. I think we’ll be seeing more and more of these as the hierarchical leadership model looses its luster.

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