Factors in Fluidity of Leadership in Emerging Contexts: Technology Access and Use

Factors in Fluidity of Leadership in Emerging Contexts: Technology Access and Use

Anna C. McFadden (University of Alabama, USA), Juanita F. McMath (University of Alabama, USA), Michelle Hale (University of Alabama, USA) and Barrie Jo Price (University of Alabama, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2668-3.ch005
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Abstract

Using the definition of Hesselbein, Goldsmith, and Beckhard (1996), leaders are defined as those with followers and who garner influence with and among those followers. Mobile technologies, social media, and other computer-mediated communication tools have changed how those followers are connected to leaders and organizations as well as how influence can be exerted by the followers themselves. Leadership in political, economic, and educational contexts is examined through examples taken from research and current events. Three common themes emerged within each of the leadership sectors examined: time and place, the role of the individual vs. the group, and interactivity. These themes are explored through a framework of questions and leadership actions.
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Background

Retired General Collin Powell, United States Army, was interviewed by Piers Morgan on CNN (November 10, 2011) and, among other topics, he discussed the difficulties experienced by today's leaders in reaching compromise on any issue. He described how, with access to media, extremists at either end of the spectrum can become immediately engaged in the situation whereas in the past, leaders had a chance to work together quietly and privately to reach common ground before experiencing broad involvement of others. Leaders' efforts today are under constant exposure to scrutiny and discussion by anyone with access to the information through the technologies available. Leaders today sometimes have to weigh and perhaps defend decisions before those decisions are even fully developed. The multitude of voices entering any decision-making process has changed the process of leadership as well as its timing. There is no longer time for that leadership and its decisions to emerge, considered and mature. The other side of this issue is the transparency being imposed on decision-making events and the policy makers because of the potential interactivity resulting from both leaders and followers having access to information.

Successful leaders now realize that these broader audiences, official or otherwise, impact how they function as leaders. Followers also realize their power, implicit or explicit, in influencing the decision-making process. Clearly, there are both positive and negative implications of open access to information by masses of individuals and groups. It is this balance of broad exposure to the widest range of audiences ever encountered by leaders as well as transparency with the need for measured, considered decision making that is at the heart of this chapter. The reader is reminded that the definition of leader used in this chapter is an individual with followers as a result of influence garnered.

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