What Middle East Protestors and The Best Companies for Leaders Have in Common

Posted 01.28.2011

My guess is you weren’t expecting to see the two topics in the title of this post strung together. Here’s the back story. 

Egypt1 As I was scanning the headlines this morning, I read the New York Times report about tens of thousands of Egyptians flooding into the streets to protest their government. This follows similar scenes in Tunisia a couple of weeks ago and it looks like Yemen is next up. All of these protests have been stimulated by a flood of information being shared through satellite news channels and by the citizens themselves through Twitter, You Tube and Facebook.  The information flow allows the protestors to learn the latest, take inspiration from it, connect with each other, collaborate and coordinate their efforts.

Earlier this week, I received an email from the Hay Group about their newly released study on the world’s best companies for developing leaders. Reading over the results, it seems to me that the leaders of these companies understand that the dynamics that are facilitating the protests in the Middle East can be leveraged for competitive advantage. To take advantage of today’s internet-enabled communications environment, the best companies are developing leaders who connect, collaborate and coordinate.

Here are a few headlines from the Hay study that illustrate that:

  • 90% of the Best Companies expect employees to lead, regardless if they have a formal position of authority.
  • 100% of the Best have programs to develop leaders who can bring together resources across the organization.
  • 100% of the Best get local leaders to participate in decisions made at HQ to share ideas and best practices.

When you read the Best Companies for Leaders data in the context of what’s going on in the rest of the world, you realize pretty quickly that we’re in the midst of a structural shift about how organizational leadership is practiced.  As the protests in the Middle East show, people want to be heard.  The data on the Best Companies suggests that they’re working to make sure people get heard and that the best ideas surface.  We’re moving further and further away from hundreds of years of practice of hierarchical leadership structures and towards flatter, more participative models.

At least that’s what I think. What do you think about the practice of leadership?  Are we in the midst of a structural shift? Where do you think things are headed?