The Uberization of Leadership

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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.


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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: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Source: HBR

Photo Credit: FreeImages/DebbieWogen

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