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Leadership Consulting

Mastering Third Generation Leadership

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The old certainties about leaders and leadership practices – if they ever existed – no longer hold. Leadership has changed because both the environment in which leadership is practiced and our expectations of leaders have fundamentally changed.

But for some, a new generation of leaders, these new practices are not a defensive response to uncertainty and ambiguity but a way to harness and embrace them, in the creation of new sources of business and social value through networks. This Third Generation of leadership (3G) centers not on the individual or team but on the network as the source of opportunity, talent, ideas and innovation.

Generation One (The domain of the individual) saw leaders as inspirational, visionary, but unique; categories of one. Then, in the second generation (Teaming) there was realization that leaders do not ever lead in a vacuum. All leaders require followers. Leaders not only need the support of their team, but their success is to a large extent dictated by their ability to foster teamwork and nurture individual team members. In short, leadership as a team sport. In these two modes, leaders and their teams tend to focus inward, controlling and leveraging their organization’s unique capabilities and resources to create value. However, our experience suggests that the high levels of ambiguity, uncertainty and hyper-connectivity that define today’s business environment, challenges this inward, ‘do it ourselves’ approach: there is too much complexity for one organization, let alone one leader, to cope with.

In response, a third generation of practices has emerged that places the individual and the team at the heart of a lattice of networks. Third Generation (3G) leaders and practices face outward, see ambiguity and uncertainty as enablers rather than barriers, and leverage the collective capability of their connections. But perhaps more profoundly, 3G leaders ‘promise to remodel the world not just strike a compromise with the existing one’ (John Gapper).


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