Open Source Leadership

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!"

Gary 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 -
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