Leadership in the New Web Era: Currency & Technology Support

To stay current and adapt as technology changes, leaders must embrace new capabilities, become comfortable with new ideas, and support change and innovation. Anecdotally, it appears that technological implementation related to the web is generational, with younger consumers more willing to use new sites and services and older consumers less supportive. While social applications are changing this paradigm, web utilization still largely mirrors larger trends in cultural change, with younger generations accepting changes and approaches not fully supported or used by their elders. In Kevin Kelly’s conception of the future web, this generational gap has less space to exist due to the ubiquitous nature of screens, information sharing, and information flow; in Kelly’s projection, people will be ‘in’ the web, not ‘on’ it. This distinction is critical for leaders attempting to stay current – in today’s web environment, staying current requires active participation in the web environment and purposeful use of particular web tools. As the web transitions and begins to, in Kelly’s words, “surround us,” web use will become a more passive activity because consumers will no longer need to search out new sites and participate in new technologies. Instead, consumers will continuously receive information from a host of connected devices, interact with computers that can adapt to users’ needs, and work in a cloud-based environment where everything is shared.

For leaders, the transition to a ubiquitous web suggests it will be more important to generally support change and innovation than it will be to actively search out and use specific technologies or resources. Instead of becoming familiar with and using every new and popular application, leaders will have to recognize technology and culture evolve at such a rapid pace that they are unable to learn and use all of the resources their employees do. In this type of environment, the best leaders will understand that leadership in a period of rapid change must be thematic, not technical. In other words, leaders who become bogged down in the minutiae of every new web tool will not be as effective as leaders who understand the web’s power at a strategic level and leverage that power through their employees’ use of tools. As the web becomes everywhere, leaders who recognize they themselves cannot be everywhere will be better able to manage in the dynamic, flowing new online world.

In today’s web environment, leaders stay current and adapt as technology changes by involving themselves with new technologies and incorporating those technologies into their professional and personal lives. As we transition to the ‘everywhere web’ and increase the type, size, and frequency of web interaction, this strategy will cease to be effective, and leaders will be better served by becoming cognizant of large-scale culture and web trends and then strategically managing employees who possess specific technical skills. While it seems counter-intuitive, the new web paradigm will force leaders to become less interested in specific programs and capabilities and more interested in large-scale trends. This will help leaders to succeed in a period of great change and great choice, and will ensure they remain supportive of new technologies without being overwhelmed by the ever-present nature of the new web.

Kelly, K. (2011, March 29). Web Expo 2.0 Keynote Address. Retrieved from http://www.web2expo.com/webexsf2011/public/schedule/detail/19292

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6 thoughts on “Leadership in the New Web Era: Currency & Technology Support

  1. Great comment on supporting change and adaptation versus spending your time looking for the silver bullet solution. There are going to be lots of technological solutions pitched your way as a leader. Basic due diligence is a must, but at the same time I’d agree with you that your number one goal is to be supportive of your team as they introduce, experiment with, and utlimately settle on various solutions and interactions with other stakeholders. Trying to build a command and control infrastructure around technology adoption, as was common not that long ago, is going to be a lost cause. Not when your employees are coming to work in many cases with more advanced computing solutions in their coat pockets than you are providing on their desktops.

  2. Your description of the evolution of technology was much more descriptive than you might imagine. Peter Kramer in his post described the use of a modem. Sometimes by describing the use of modems and how cutting edge they were in the not so distant past you nailed the topic on the head. At the time we never would have imagined where we would be currently.

    April 20, 2013 at 11:41 AM

  3. Tim, excellent post. I particularly liked what you said about “…staying current requires active participation in the web environment and purposeful use of particular web tools.” Back in week 1, I described how the web had shifted from a destination to a platform of participation. Your ideas of leaders involving themselves in the networked world and being open to employees experimenting are critical facets for future leadership.

    • Could it be that future leadership assessments (think “annual review”) will in part be determined by your display of technology acumen? It brings to mind a Dilbert cartoon of Dilbert carrying around every portable device he could possibly fit on his body, but imagine coming into a review with your boss and being asked “hey, I didn’t see you on LinkedIn. Why not?” Or, I’d like to follow you on Twitter, what is your account name?” If you can’t answer those simple questions, you may some fast tap dancing to do with respect to your technology leadership.

  4. Tim,
    I could not have said this better:

    “For leaders, the transition to a ubiquitous web suggests it will be more important to generally support change and innovation than it will be to actively search out and use specific technologies or resources. Instead of becoming familiar with and using every new and popular application, leaders will have to recognize technology and culture evolve at such a rapid pace that they are unable to learn and use all of the resources their employees do. In this type of environment, the best leaders will understand that leadership in a period of rapid change must be thematic, not technical. In other words, leaders who become bogged down in the minutiae of every new web tool will not be as effective as leaders who understand the web’s power at a strategic level and leverage that power through their employees’ use of tools. As the web becomes everywhere, leaders who recognize they themselves cannot be everywhere will be better able to manage in the dynamic, flowing new online world.”

    I completely agree with your conclusion on how leaders must handle technology. It is naive, in my opinion, to believe that leaders can stay current in all the technologies that will rapidly develop.

  5. Hello, I really thought your comment about younger people more apt to adopting new technology and older people to be less likely to. I see this at the university I work for. Younger employees get excited to try new software and seem to be always current on them. However, I do agree with you that older employees tend to like to stick with similar software and are less likely to change. This could be due to the fact that throughout their lives they were never required to change this quickly or this often. The younger generation grew up with constant change so they are accustomed to it.

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