The Leadership Vacuum: More Dyson than Hoover

Are we in the middle of a leadership crisis?

Depending on what you read and who you listen to, we are in the middle of a leadership crisis. There are power vacuums across the political, social and business spectrums. Leaders apparently are in short supply. But is this really the truth of it? Are we really witnessing a power vacuum or have we reached a point where the traditional notions of leadership don’t align to the issues and challenges that we now face day in and day out.

Our world has changed drastically, but in some ways, we’re still tied to a framework that was built for the industrial age. It is akin to what we see in education, where instruction and underlying principles are still aligned in many ways with the Industrial Revolution. The leadership framework has to change, we are not playing in the same sandbox. Our challenges are different, the pace at which we move and with which decisions get made is incredibly faster than what previous leaders have had to deal with. This requires more than ever that we have savvy leaders and savvy followers. Power is now diffused across a greater spectrum than it ever has been before.

People have access to more information and more technology, giving them a voice that most people never dared dream of. Look at the Arab Spring, the Tea Party and the Occupy movements. There were no clear leaders per se, but each has left an indelible mark. The people rose as leaders and worked harmoniously to raise issues, overthrow dictators and bring awareness. The ends may still be in question, but we’re seeing collaboration on a scale never before possible.

Power lies in networks and information in today’s world. Leadership still matters, but our reality calls for a different framework for leadership. One that understands how leaders and followers interact in this new age. This framework needs to recognize and give credence to the fact that hierarchical structures aren’t required for leaders to work or emerge in this global era.

Leaders still matter, maybe more so than ever, but it is time that we redefine the framework in which they operate.

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