The Uberization of Leadership

Change is something we encounter every day. Sometimes it occurs quietly and we don’t even notice it. At other times it is loud and disruptive. However, it seems like we are usually better at noticing change than adjusting to it. As an honest individual once told me, “I love change…until it impacts me”.

Change is quickly (and quietly) impacting how we develop leaders. Or more precisely, it should be impacting how we develop leaders. In an insightful HBR article, Jesuthasan and Holmstrom remind us, “as work changes [and it is!] our leadership development has to keep up”. They provide three important areas where leadership development must adjust to meet the needs of our changing organizations.

  1. Develop Digital Leaders: “‘Digital’ is not something that is happening to organizations, it has and continues to be the means through which work is accomplished” (Jesuthasan and Holmstrom). As a result, they suggest leadership development must involve digital mastery, agility, thriving amidst disruption and a readiness for change. Furthermore, we must use different methodology to accomplish this as we work with digital natives (those who were born with an electronic device in their hand) and digital immigrants (those who did not grow up in an era of ubiquitous technology).
  2. Move Beyond the Classroom: Learning has traditionally been delivered in two forms; on-the-job or in-the-classroom. In our current environment, effective learning outcomes are best achieved by blending these two methods seamlessly. Many forms of this symbiosis are still emerging but I believe organizations which effectively learn how to do so will find themselves on the leading edge of success.
  3. Utilize Coaching: Coaching is moving from a reactive strategy (it fixes a problem) to a proactive strategy (it helps solves problems before they occur). Coaches are an effective way for people to have a safe outlet and a accessible way to receive perspective on day-to-day issues. My coaching engagements often utilize my professorial teaching content, but in ways which apply these lessons to an individual’s unique work circumstances. Similar to just-in-time inventory management, effective coaching provides just-in-time leadership wisdom to those who need it.

In the past seven years, Uber has changed the way our taxi system works. This change has been rapid and dramatic. Similarly, our leadership development model is in the midst of a quiet uberization. The way we used to do things just don’t work in our business environment any more.

Your leadership development opportunities are abundant. However, they are not all relevant. As you look for ways to enhance your leadership ensure that your opportunities equip you to lead digitally, blend theory and practice and involve ongoing coaching opportunities. These are the leadership skills which will equip you to be a future-ready leader.

Head Shot

Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:

Source: HBR

Photo Credit: FreeImages/DebbieWogen

Leading Globally: The Power Distance Effect

We have all felt power at work in our professional and personal relationships. Sometimes it draws us nearer to people and at times it pushes us away. At times it operates so naturally that we feel comfortable while at other times it makes us uncomfortable. There is a term for this – power distance.

By definition, power distance is the degree to which we expect and agree that power should be stratified and concentrated at higher levels. High power distance seeks more stratification while lower score minimize differences. This phenomenon is very present as we examine cultural norms. The caste system in India is a historic example of how power distance can dramatically define and affect relationships and societies.

The chart below illustrates some of the most common differences between countries with high or low power distance scores. At the bottom of this blog you will find a reference chart which provides specific results for the 62 countries in the GLOBE study.

Leading Globally - Power Distance





Power distance norms correlate directly to how we lead. Countries with low scores utilize Leading Globally - Power Distance3charismatic and participative leadership styles. Countries with high scores practice self-protective leadership. In addition, the GLOBE research reveals that traditionally, strong Catholic countries have a culture of strong power distance. High practices of power distance are also associated with higher levels of male domination in societies. To illustrate this point, I encourage you to look for countries which have female Presidents or Prime Minister’s. In most cases, you will find that they are nations with lower power distance scores.

This global measure provides us with helpful insights into how societies operate. Power distance is a quiet principle that affects our lives in significant ways. Effective leaders and organizations must learn to identify and adapt to variances in power distance norms as they work and relate to others.

This blog is part 6 of an 8 part series on global leadership. You may enjoy reviewing some previous posts: Gender EqualityAssertivenessFuture OrientationPerformance Orientation and Individualism.


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a professor and consultant who works inLeading Globally - Power Distance 2
the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and their Future-Readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman


House, R., Hanges, P.J., Javidan, M., Dorfman, P.W., Gupta, V. (2004).Culture, leadership, and organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.

Fear This, Not That! You May be Afraid of the Wrong Things

Misdirected fear.

When our minds focus on the wrong issues, our misdirected fear can keep us from working on the things that matter. For example, in the weekend LA Times Parade magazine, Maura Rhodes provided a short list of what we tend to focus on versus what we should really be fearing (see graphic).Fear This Not That 2

Organizations also encounter this same problem. When we focus on the wrong thing we attempt to fix the wrong problems with misguided efforts. Here are three ‘Fear This, Not That’ scenarios that I bump into as I work with organizations.

1. Fear a faulty hiring process, not problem employees! No one enjoys a bad employee. However, if we aren’t careful with who we let in the front door, we can expect a busy back-door! I have inherited more than my share of bad employees. I’ve also hired a few myself. A consistent pattern with problem staff is that they provided early warning signals about poor performance (usually in the interview or during their probation period). If your HR office is not a strong collaborator during the hiring, probation and evaluation process, you can expect problem employees. When you are supported by a robust interview (which must include the three C’s – character, competency and chemistry), you will generally make good decisions. When we don’t, low performer employees cause leaders to develop a defensive leadership style. We create better leaders by hiring better employees.

2. Fear your strategic planning process, not the future! As a futurist, I consistently speak with people who hear what I do and say, “Oh, we need to understand the future better”. Then they go on to tell me about the many challenges that an uncertain future brings. Usually their focus is on what they don’t know. Very few speak about what they do know or how they can know more. If your strategic plan is not using the tools of strategic foresight as a means to proactively engage with the future, you have reason to fear it. As we equip ourselves with future knowledge we enable ourselves to build and activate better strategy. When we don’t, we fear the future.

3. Fear organizations who focus on leadership development rather than the development of good leadership. While this phrase may seem like I am splitting hairs, the difference between leadership and good leadership is immense. Leadership development focuses on what leaders do. While what a leader accomplishes is important, it is insufficient. Bin Laden, Hitler and President Mugabe (Zimbabwe) were effective leaders who left a path of destruction in their wake. Instead, when we focus on good leadership we discuss the hard issues – why are we leading, what is good and how do we improve our collective well-being. While that statement contains a throwback hippy sentimentality, the current rise of ethics, morality and ends-focus (not just the means) is also increasing in our business literature.

As we examine our fears, we need to ensure we are afraid of the right things. This requires us to challenge our assumptions. Learning to question our fears and identify the important ones can mobilize us from inaction to action.

I’d love to hear your own versions of misdirected fear in the workplace. ‘Fear This, Not That!’.


Jeff SuHead Shotderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Rhodes, M. (2015). Fears 2015. Parade Magazine via the LA Times. Sunday, January 18, 2015.