On Leadership as Purpose Alignment: Q&A with the London School of Economics

Earlier this week, the London School of Economics and Political Science shared a Q&A that we worked on together about how to scale ideas through networks. While all of the questions were on point, this one stuck out:

You talk a lot about trust and integrity as important to get people to work towards a common goal. At a certain point you give an example, that “if my supervisor demonstrates empowering leadership but I don’t feel it’s genuine I’m not going to take the risk to be creative”. Is convincing people that you mean it key for leadership?

What are we’re talking about here is tied to one of your earlier questions.

You asked if what we’re talking about was social media-related, and I said, actually you’re asking the wrong question because this is about social networks as a new way of getting things done. Here you ask, “is convincing people that you mean it key to leadership” which suggest it’s something one person does to another and not something people come to understand together. This tension is important to call out and elaborate on. Social media is what one applies to get you to do my bidding, a way of advertising and influencing. Social networks are applied so we can decide and act as one, reaching new outcomes together.

But if we’re talking about “social” in the way I have defined it, that of distributed networks that lets people join in as needed — then there is a new way to organise, mobilise and enact change. Instead of an employee model where I do what you want me to because I report to you, I instead have the power to act on my own interest, to find those who can join in and we can do something that otherwise was impossible before. I have agency, autonomy and can act accordingly. It changes leading to be how we come together to solve some of the world’s most complex problem. In the social and networked model I describe as the future of work, “leadership” becomes about getting people to join in because we are aligned in purpose. Social trust, then, is an extraordinarily interesting variable in how we each lead. It means people “follow” based on clarity and alignment of purpose. It means we focus on alignment of interests, not organising by organisational chart.

It means we shift from rewarding individuals to rewarding the cultures that allow people to take the risks to learn, and figure it out so we bring out the best of one another and for one another. And this form of social trust doesn’t get anywhere near the attention it deserves. But the basic idea is this: if you believe my interests are aligned to yours, and that I’ll choose our interest over my own, we’ll invest in ourselves to get things done.

When we see this change in “social”, leadership will know it’s not about what you get me to do, it’s about us and where we’re going.

Read the full Q&A here.

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