The New Face of Leadership

Fast Company Magazine, believe it or not, has been around for almost 20 years. It was founded in 1995 by Bill Taylor and Alan Webber (who were previously editors at Harvard Business Review). I remember when I was doing my graduate work in Organization Development at the turn of the century, and it was the magazine that all the cool clients were reading. I remember going to “Company of Friends” meetings–social networks before we had Twitter or Facebook! To me, Fast Company was representing the “new” way of doing business.

Of course, back then was the heyday of Fast Company, when the magazine was sold for $350 million–the second highest price ever paid for a magazine. Since then, we’ve come down off the dot-com bubble (the magazine was re-sold a few years later for only $35 million), the social internet has re-established itself, and of course we’ve also been experiencing more recently the worst recession ever. Times have changed.

But I think Fast Company is doing a good job at staying on top of the “new” way of doing business. In November’s issue there is a lengthy (but important) article, written by the editor of the magazine, Robert Safian, about the “Secrets of the Flux Leader.” The article is part of a series of Generation Flux articles that are addressing a new way of doing business. As Safian says in the most recent article, Generation flux is not a demographic distinction based on age–it is a “psychographic”:

You can be any age and be GenFlux. Their characteristics are clear: an embrace of adaptability and flexibility; an openness to learning from anywhere; decisiveness tempered by the knowledge that business life today can shift radically every three months or so.

The rest of the article highlights GenFlux in action in today’s economy, including examples from Nike, Intuit, the U.S. Army, and the social media company FourSquare. And the basic arguments are fundamentally the same core points that Maddie and I are making in Humanize. From the article:

  • At companies big and small, the smartest leaders recognize that a new kind of openness to ideas is required.
  • Where hierarchy clearly fails the modern organization is in fostering and encouraging the creative ideas needed to stay agile in today’s networked world.
  • This kind of openness requires not just free-flowing information but a new kind of collaborative trust.
  • You can’t have people siloed in their particular areas of strength. You have to value all styles, because you will never know which type will solve a problem.
  • If you unlock the talents of 8,000 people, you’ve tapped into the best of everybody.
  • The either-or framing drilled into us from an early age is a useless oversimplification.
  • There exists no single model that leads to success. Tolerating, accepting, and, yes, reveling in paradox is the approach demanded by our chaotic economy.
Now is the time to take these ideas and run with them. Take these ideas and apply them to business problems you are facing today. Experiment with them. Actually STOP doing some other things to create room to work with these ideas. I think it’s going to be much harder to catch up with this curve later than it will be to make the adjustments to it now.