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The Boom: The Evolution of Leadership


October 5

Maritjn Boomsma

The Boom: The Evolution of Leadership

“The shared economy model is disrupting industries by cutting out the middleman, allowing consumers to connect with services and products directly and economically. How does this development trickle into leadership and management styles? When “managing” becomes an obsolete function with the introduction of automated technologies and apps, how does “leadership” evolve? Reflecting on the past can help interpreting the path ahead…”

Ancient Egyptians: ... proof of what can be achieved...

A small elite with all the power. A system fueled by suppression and even slavery. People born as slave or king. The Pyramids are proof of what can be achieved with an unrelenting leadership structure in place. But clearly not everyone was happy… only those few at the top. Then came the Dark Ages where again a few people took full control. The strongest and most violent held all the power, but did not stand still. Building armies and strongholds, they created space for ever-growing means of expansion. The Habsburgs in Austria were able to gain control of most of the known world by selectively marrying into the ‘right’ families. Religion spread throughout the world and was wielded by Emperors as a means to control the masses bound by common goals and worldviews. Major conflicts were hallmarks of this time, supported within the system of feudalism.


But mankind started to question the ways of the world they lived in and freethinkers dared to rebel against the kings and the religion that held them down. People demanded more freedom, access to education and ownership. Not without a fight, these rights were granted and are still evolving. Questions of equality concerning race, sexual preferences and gender continue to divide us and are not yet answered within communities and cultures around the world.

Still just a few at the top...

Looking back in history, I realised we have not yet begun to modernise the concept of leadership. In many ways, we are more equal than ever before. Government and religion are held to be separate in the Western world while Christian values continue to dominate. And our ways of working are still based on the idea of one - or a select few - taking the lead. Yes, this person may well be the founder of the company in question. As such, she is deemed to be the rightful leader. (Haha - did you think of a woman when I said ‘this person’ is maybe the founder of the company?) And, what about the state of democracy today?

After the Renaissance, the industrial revolution and the expansion of democracy, we in the Western world have come to expect good schools for our kids, access to healthcare and presume the idea of equality for all. Yet at the same time, it’s remains a man’s world based on Christian values. Most of us can now afford luxuries unimagined in days of old, the latest gadgets, and holidays abroad. But, access to power is another story. Ok - back to the topic. Leadership. Our image of a good leader is based on our history. Usually, it’s a strong man who is an extravert and decisive. Someone who is a risk taker, with a large and often huge ego. We admire their power, strength and guts.

With gender equality gaining ground, it’s time to discuss new forms leadership. A form where the the ideal candidate in no longer considered a man as defined by yesterday’s standards. We need to liberalize the views on how we see men and women in power. We need to move beyond the precepts we were raised on, and think about new possibilities without regard to gender.

The internet revolution has brought people closer.

Within seconds, we can video chat with someone in China to discuss the latest updates. In music, film, media and many other industries, the middleman has been cut out. Everything has become more transparent. Social media, such as Twitter, has given everyone a voice.

And that brings us to the good and bad of recent changes in how we communicate. With populism on the rise, cutting edge tools can be used to manipulate people and democracy with razor sharp targeting of audiences and the creation of fake news – or ‘alternative facts’. Youngsters have become glued to their phones and basically experience their ‘real’ lives within a digital context.

But for now, I would like to focus on the good part: internet has also made it possible to communicate in real time, allowing us easy access to information and opinions, and greater transparency. Producers can sell their products directly to consumers. Consumers can compare prices, quality and service levels provided by suppliers.

But hey - while this internet (tech) is cutting out the middleman… how about cutting out managers?

Yes, technology is helping make the classic idea of a manager obsolete. Who needs a manager when you have apps? Of course we need coaches to keep engagement high. We need people to inspire and help us discover the direction going forward. Can you see where I’m going with this? The classic manager aka leader is often not able to offer this kind of coaching and inspiration. Workers can use apps to register hours, to keep track of progress, etc., but they need to be engaged and motivated. Ricardo Semler is a good example of someone who has been able to foster democracy within a company that flourishes as a result and becomes even more successful.

Nowadays, more and more companies are choosing for a culture that nurtures a strong sense of trust and independence for and between their employees. I think this is a good thing. With less control, this new transparency and more trusting way of working, we are opening a collective power of passion that is contagious. Welcome to a future full of possibilities.

PS - I’ve had to edit this article so it would not be too long. If you would like, I would love to discuss this topic further and would be honored to do that with you. Feel free to email me if interested at [email protected] and we can organise an event to make that possible.