The days of any kind of organisation being run autocratically, secretively and to the agenda of a narrow elite are numbered. Whether it is a country, a company or a nuclear power station stakeholders are no longer to be ignored or patronised.
Digital technology means that transparency is inevitable. Data is massively and instantly recordable and portable. Think of the video that has been shared with the world recently, unmediated by broadcasters or governments, of protests and tsunami. With smart phones, everyone carries a recording and broadcast devices in their pocket.
A smartphone or laptop in a meeting could easily be recording the whole thing. Part of my most recent lecture at the KaosPilots Business School is on YouTube – because someone in the room recorded it on a smart phone. Once recorded it is a simple matter to broadcast.
Taken to extremes transparency becomes a form of torture. Always on, always public. Just ask anyone who has left an uncomfortable digital wake across the internet, on Facebook, YouTube or Twitter, and been judged on their prior behaviour. Josh Harris has perhaps taken transparency furthest, with his infamous month long millennium party “Quiet” where 300 guests were videoed as they partied for a month, and his own “Big Brother” style recording of his life with his girlfriend We Live In Public, now the title of a biopic.
No one needs to take it to that extreme, but there are still consequences for all of us, especially in business. Like living in a small village, as individuals and businesses we cannot expect past indiscretions to be forgotten. They will hang around in the digital consciousness waiting for the moment to pounce.
The answer is to only doing things you are proud of. It is not enough to simple avoid doing things of which we are not proud, we must also act. We must also stand up for what we believe in, proactively.
Our business brand or our personal “brand” exists only in the minds of our stakeholders. It is formed by every experience our stakeholders have of our brand. Combining both direct and indirect interactions, the opinion of a trusted third party is often more influential than our own direct experience.
As individuals, to hold ourselves to that standard of only behaving in ways we are proud of requires deep self knowledge and inner confidence. For a business it requires the same level of self knowledge and inner confidence, combined with an alignment of purpose and vision, among all key influencers, that enables the individuals to form a team.
Self knowledge and inner confidence are the tools we use to make the fine judgements between what will make us and our organisation proud and what will not. These things are easy when we are within our comfort zone, the test comes when we are outside it, Caught off guard or under pressure. It is whether we react under those situations or have the composure to respond that makes the difference.
Does your “brand” represent you and your organisation, both exactly as you would like it to and exactly as it is?
Are you proud of your digital wake and the digital wake of your organisation?
Are the teams you are part of fully aligned, passionate and proud of what you do together?
My approach to answering yes to all of these questions is fairly simple, even for the largest organisation to implement. It is not a major change management process, it does not need to look into every detail of the business and how it behaves. The proven approach is that if you get the leadership right, everything else takes care of itself.
If your leaders (formal and informal) have the deep self knowledge and the inner confidence to be authentic, without fear or compromise in all situations and are also aligned, proud and passionate about what they do, the rest will take care of itself.
Most people will follow the lead they see from their own boss. So if all of the senior people are doing the right thing, then most others will too. Equally if many of the people in your team or organisation are not behaving in the ways you would like them to, perhaps you need to look at your behaviour first.
I call this Authentic Leadership, I believe it is the highest level of leadership currently known to our society and the level of leadership that will be most successful in a transparent and social future. For options on how to bring this to your team or organisation visit www.neilcrofts.com
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