The Egyptian people have much work to do to create a democratic state and there is no certainty yet that they will achieve this dream. However, the one thing that is certain is that the way people choose to form and manage large organizations has changed forever. We are witnessing a preference for networks as opposed to hierarchies. Leaders of complex organizations should be paying attention to what is happening in Egypt and all over the Middle East, for that matter.
Leading a networked organization is very different from leading a hierarchical organization. Harold Jarche, in his blog, talks about the differences between a hierarchy and a networked organization and how that affects leadership. He writes:
It takes different leadership to increase collaboration and support social learning in the workplace. Leadership is the key, not technology. Most of our leadership practices come from a command and control military legacy that have been adopted by the business world for the past century. But hierarchies don’t help us manage in networks, whether they be social, value or organizational networks.
Egypt’s leaders learned this lesson when they tried to gain control of protestors prior to President Mubarak stepping down. The old guard seemed to believe that a nation state will plunge into chaos unless it has an iron-fisted ruler at the helm.
And the media reinforce this way of thinking by asking the wrong questions. Wally Bock, in his blog, cites the situation in Egypt as an example. He writes
There's an interesting illustration of this principle playing out in the coverage of events in Egypt these days. Older commentators may wonder "Who's controlling the crowds?" but younger commentators ask, "How are the crowds organizing?"
Internet-age youth have shown to the world that they can organize themselves using email and social media. Governments as well as businesses and nonprofits should heed this lesson. Technology and the proclivities of the new generation of young adults are transforming organizations in ways that demand new kinds of leadership.