Leadership in the "Culture of Sharing" Era

Last Updated Sep 15, 2010 1:29 PM EDT

Has technology changed the ingredients needed to become a great leader?

Maybe not the basic ingredients, such as a sense of mission, humbleness and belief in people's abilities. But technology has surely improved the toolkit we use to lead. but modern communications tools have certainly the tools we use to practice modern leadership, which involves as much listening as talking.

Charlene Li, a Harvard Business School MBA, hits this message out of the park in an interview with the Washington Post, Leading in the Age of Social Media. Li is cofounder of Altimeter Group and an expert on corporate use of social media. Her book (written with Josh Bernoff) Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies is a must-read. Her new book is Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead.

What technology enables is that "the way you can establish these relationships can be done at scale," she said, not just through one-on-one encounters.

She related the case of SunGuard's CEO Cristóbal Conde, who enjoys and learns from conversations he has on Yammer with an engineer that is seven layers below him on the org chart and a continent away.

Social technologies also provide the underpinnings of Li's idea of "open leadership," allowing for much deeper relationships with employees, partners and customers.

So the ways for leaders to be more effective in this culture of sharing are to embrace openess, encourage communication up and down the org chart (if there is an org chart), and to use social technologies to reach a large number of people in as personal ways as possible.

Do you find that modern technology changes how you manage your people?

(Photo by Flickr user theparadigmshifter, CC 2.0)

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.