Thursday, May 28, 2015

Leadership as defined by your measure of Centrality

Leadership is the order of centrality you are willing to bear to reach your level of success.

There are a lot of platitudes about leadership. Courage, force of will, popularity, charisma and intelligence may strike a few familiar notes. The truth is all of these are factors to great sounding leadership memes, yet the reality is its not really a factor. Does courage count if you are disengaged? Does intelligence matter if you are out of the loop? Does your sheer force of will matter if you are so disconnected that you are unaware of the context of any important decision facing your organization?

Probably not…

So, as we have clearly left the 20th century, at least most of us. I believe its important to point out we are living in a post-modern hyper-connected information economy. So the virtues of the last century while are still noble but really hint at being a quaint curiosity in the face of first world problems of which smart-watch platforms to buy into and the resale of personal big / small data exchanges. Not that courage or intelligence are not in demand or are not noble characteristics. They just are, just not as critical as centrality, when it comes to leadership centrality rules.

Let’s be clear, we don’t follow stupid, cowardly, weak willed, unpopular leaders blindly or wantonly. Yet, I dare you to not mention a leader who did not have at least one of those qualities?

The factor that enables even stupid, cowardly, weak willed and unpopular leaders in power? Is the order of centrality, and not just any sort as I shall explore, but a very specific type.

Some Background, Centrality is a way social science measures your connections in network, most specifically in a social network. You are a node and every connection to a node is a degree. Centrality is measured several ways, Degree, Closeness, Betweenness and Eigenvectors. Each mathematical measure answers a question to way we might measure how connected you are in any social network.

Degree: How many connections to me? Closeness: Am I closer to other groups or more isolated? Betweenness: How well do you connect groups to other groups? Eigenvector: How many connections do your connections have closest to you?

So, being connected? That’s the key to leadership? No. The 3rd measure is. Though I would argue that Closeness and Eigenvector are critically important as well, just not to the extent of Betweenness. And I would add that Closeness and Eigenvector are still more important than Courage, Intelligence, and force of will.

Now Betweenness is how information flows. If you are the key or gate keeper to the flow of information, be this financial data, social-dynamics data, or technological expertise data, if you are the shortest path between any two random nodes/persons, you have a high centrality of Betweenness.

Think for a second, if you have the fastest answers, if all information goes through you, and you can alter or shape the flow of or type of information passed, you are the leader in any information based organization. You may not have the title, but you rule that kingdom.

But before you run your email list through LinkedIn, there are trade-offs and efforts that are required to accomplish this. In an enterprise there are only 3 ways to increase your “Betweenness”.

1)    Snoop

2)    Expand your base

3)    Own the record maker

Snooping is really just being able to pick up information anywhere, and then building a reputation of always knowing the inside scoop, this is a precursor to value resonance that I will elaborate later. Such that, this can be a catalyst to the second which is building your base. But it can also backfire, as people may interpret you are the sieve and not a lock box.

Expanding your base, is really building your social network. Its not just Linkedin or Facebook. But having a lot of connection does help in terms of surface credibility. This is a long and laborious process.  It takes time to create situations where you are indispensable to others.

The key here are the qualities identified in studies on leadership emergence. Value resonance and gregariousness. So the example I use is Flickr. If you go onto Flicker and use it post pictures of well crafted articles, not going resonate. If you create or curate great photos of love, war, peace, that will. But only if you are gregarious in so much that you reach out to others as one that holds great resonating values to that network aka great photographs will.

This can is time consuming as well. Especially in business, where there are so many factors to focus on core resonate values. But if you produce great product, that gets observed across various value based networks Finance/Marketing/Sales, then leadership opportunities will follow.

Finally we get to the easiest and most ignored yet probably the most powerful. Own the record maker. And by this I mean; If you own the technology that controls decision making, you are catapulted into a leadership position. You may be stupid, weak willed, isolated or insipid, you own the record maker.

A record maker is the device that sucks up information and pushes out some report that the business must have to make decisions. If the record maker works in real time? Even better, as various other business leaders will depend on you to make their decisions.

Then why aren’t the quants in research the CEO? Because they don’t do the other 2.  They lack the ability to be gregarious, they lack an understanding of value resonance, and other than their own data, they have no idea what’s going on beyond their cubicles.

How many times have we seen somebody who knows what’s going on in every department, delivers key reports, and is connected to various team leaders who depend on them and is the company’s loser?

I have not seen it. I have seen that person not be the smartest, not the most genteel, nor the most popular in a particular division. But everyone felt they were leaders. So while knowing what courage is, knowing how to be charismatic is great, being the goto person for answers and having the wit to capitalize on that is crucial.

So knowing how information flows, knowing how to seize the opportunity to control that flow, and knowing how to distribute it through a business network, that is 21st century leadership.

The question is now, what information center do you own?