Corporate power is changing fast

Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets – Dr Paul Batalden

Moises Naim has written a book, The End of Power , in which he highlights that three trends are weakening traditional political power relationships in a range of political domains from sovereign states to other organisations:
– more: more people, information, resources, activity, etc
– mobility: unprecedented mobility
– mentality: new mindsets and expectations driven from new values and expectations

These three factors are also likely to drive dramatic power relationship changes inside corporations in coming years. Corporate politics is just human politics writ small. More than ever employees, customers, suppliers and communities are leveraging these three trends to challenge hierarchical models of power that trace back to the founding of modern corporate structures.

Social media internally and externally connects more and more people and supplies an escalating volume of information. The edicts of senior managers no longer stand alone. Consumers, partners and employees may well be better connected and have more information on what’s going on than the executive decision maker.

The Internet has accelerated the ability of customers and employees to be more mobile and to engage in new relationships with a corporation. Alternatives are now much more easily found and individuals have greater power to make their own choices or even solutions to needs. Voice is an increasing option where once the dissatisfied had only exit to choose.

These trends will only accelerate the already shifting values and expectations in employee careers and consumer purchase decisions. The employee and consumer expectations of a two-way & values-based relationship is likely to increase. Organisations and leaders will find themselves more accountable for their own rhetoric.

Leaders need to recognize these changes and begin to adapt to new models of leadership. Many leaders bemoan the limits of their status and hierarchical power today. The traditional ability to order technical change is simply less effective in complex adaptive situations. The trends that Moises Naim identifies are only likely to increase the number challenges corporate leaders face that exhibit these characteristics. We all need to start learning new ways now of adjusting to new leadership styles that are more two-way, more adaptive and based more in the strength of authority, not role. The rewards of these new models will come in purpose, engagement and the ability of enabled employees, consumers and partners to innovate.

The leaders who adapt first to these changes will hold distinct advantages over those who cling to traditional models of leadership. Which would you rather have a begrudging captive or a loyal follower?

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