Power in business is not what it used to be. Old power worked like a currency that was held by few, well looked after and spent by the lucky ones. It was closed, inaccessible and top-down-driven. New power, according to Heimans and Timms, is different. It operates differently, is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven.
Power, as Bertrand Russel defines it, is simply „the ability to produce intended effects“. Old and new power models produce these effects differently. Old power is enabled by what people or organizations own, know, or control that nobody else does. This way, old power models require little more than consumption from their customers. New power models on the other hand are enabled by peer coordination and the agency of the crowd. Without participation, they are nothing.
New power gains its force from peoples growing capacity and desire to go far beyond passive consumption of ideas and goods. These behaviors include sharing (taking other people’s content and sharing it with audiences), shaping (remixing or adapting existing content or ideas), funding (crowd-funding or endorsing with money), producing (creating or delivering content or assets within a peer community like etsy and Airbnb) and co-owning (having partial or complete ownership in content or assets, for ex. Wikipedia).
What is distinctive about these participatory behaviors is that they effectively unfold power from a source that is enormous – the passions and the energies of the many.
The unfolding of this power demands a new type of leadership. It demands leaders who rather work by giving examples than by dictate: asking questions rather than making decisions; clearing a path to the unknown for your team rather than identifying the end goal; and giving people the right time, the right constraints, and the right tools.
Last, not least, the new power of leadership unfolds in new collaborative types of workspaces. Coworking is succeeding worldwide because it integrates good workspace design that enhances exploration with the digital work habits of individuals and small teams. Zappos for ex. uses a new metric to measure a space’s effectiveness – it’s called “collisionable hours”. Designs that encourade “collisions” between digital workers are being scaled beyond office buildings to improve performance in entire neighborhoods, suggesting a future in which the corporate office is a semipermeable public-private space woven into the urban fabric.
What are your examples of the new power of leadership?