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Thursday Complexity Post
February 13, 2014
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Leaders Face New Challenges in a Networked World


The language of leadership often reflects hierarchy and elaborates distinctions between leaders and followers. The "great man" theory of history proposed by nineteenth century philosopher Thomas Carlisle still offers an appealing view of extraordinary men and women shaping and moving events through their own personal strength and charisma. Scholar and author Mila Baker, PhD, argues one of the most profound social shifts in recent years has been erosion of individual power and the rise of collective power enabled by technology and social media.  


"We need a mindset and language of leadership that maintains equilibrium between leading and following-a conception of leadership that is agile and stateless in its composition," she writes in her new book Peer to Peer Leadership: Why the Network is the Leader. "Like the U.S. Constitution guides and influences the nation's trajectory without stifling the rights and freedoms of its populace, organizations' design needs to facilitate leading and following on an equal platform."   


Dr. Baker isn't saying CEOs have no role. She is saying today's changing business world requires them to adopt new thinking and behavior. In the architecture of a peer to peer network community, every computer-or electronic device-represents a node. The network connects people and provides instant flow of information. All nodes within the network are equal participants in a larger whole, a concept Dr. Baker calls equipotency. Electronic technology is no longer just a tool in organizations. It changes the way we relate to one another. It enables information to be sent and received among peers working toward a common goal. Everyone leads and everyone follows. Dr. Baker tells of her own experience working in a psychiatric emergency room. Each individual had an equal opportunity to contribute, which was not defined by an individuals' role or position, but the need of the moment. "We shared power and authority-we followed and gave orders as necessary," she writes, all respecting each other's commitment to the wellbeing of patients. "In general, she says, "equipotency blurs the line between leader and follower, and at the same time clarifies the overall purpose within groups and organizations."   


The dynamic action needed to respond to a situation, she says, "occurs at the intersection of art and science." That's the relational dynamic that develops within a network when all perspectives are heard, integrated and accounted for. The network becomes the leader, Dr. Baker writes, because actions are based on a consensus of needs.  


So what is the paradigm for new leadership? Dr. Baker says leadership can only be demonstrated in the context of a relational dynamic. She describes leadership as a "dyad exchange structure." She says this kind of leadership is shown by "the catalytic action that occurs in the relational dynamic between two individuals working together toward a common goal." In organizations that have successfully evolved away from the Industrial Age individual-centered command and control model, dyad exchange structures will connect nodes-people-for the purpose of resolving polarities and innovating. Dr. Baker says these structures will strengthen the bonds among people, enable the network to do its work, and allow us to embrace technology "as an extension of our capacity to evolve as humans in a connected world." The connected world means we need to move beyond the idea that leadership is limited to individuals, and that information should flow mainly from boss to subordinate. Networked information in organizations means more openness and more agility. Hazards associated with increased openness can be mitigated by technology that quickly uncovers patterns and identifies risks.  


Some reviewers call Dr. Baker's book revolutionary. Want to learn more? See the message below to join tomorrow's PlexusCall with Dr. Baker and business author Rod Collins.



Remember PlexusCalls!



Friday, February 14, 2014- 1-2 PM ET

Peer to Peer Leadership and New Networks 
Guests: Mila Baker and Rod Collins  




What do social networks and crowdsource technologies teach us about today's leadership? Through her scholarship and experience, Mila Baker shows that networks with "equipotent" nodes of power-think peer leaders-are infinitely more powerful than leader-follower networks. In organizations with "equipotent" nodes, leadership isn't fixed or siloed, and information flows freely to those who need it. Join the conversation to learn more!

Mila Baker, PhD, is the author of Peer to Peer Leadership: Why the Network is the Leader. She is an accomplished business executive and academician with 30 years' experience in the field of human resource management, organization development, design and change. Her work has included senior positions at Fortune 500 multinational companies, international organizations and higher education. She has been responsible for the design, implementation and success of major change initiatives, organization design and leadership programs that align people strategy, business strategy and organization culture, values and purpose. She has been recognized by the Corporate Leadership Council Gold Book on Executive Coaching for her pioneering work in the design and implementation of the Pfizer Global Coaching Program. Her research focus is on leadership and organization design within entrepreneurial start ups and large multinational organizations. Dr. Baker is Associate Professor and Academic Chair for the M.S. in HRMD program at New York University- School for Continuing & Professional Studies. She is a master teacher and oversees faculty, curriculum development of all programs related to the management of people, processes, structure and organization effectiveness and strategy. She is past Board Chair of the Organization Development Network and the Organization Design Forum. She is the recipient of the 2014 University of Cincinnati McMicken Distinguished Alumni Award.

Rod Collins is the Director of Innovation at Optimity Advisors, a national management consulting firm. Rod is leading expert on the next generation of business management. He works with executives who understand that managing great change means changing how we manage. Rod helps business leaders leverage the power of innovation and collaboration to drive extraordinary performance in a world of accelerating change and escalating complexity. Rod is the former Chief Operating Executive of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Federal Employee Program, one of the nation's largest and most successful business alliances, which today has over $28 billion in annual revenues. Under his leadership, the business experienced its greatest five-year growth period in its 52-year history, as year after year, it set new records for operational and financial performance.

Rod's most recent book is Wiki Management: A Revolutionary New Model for a Rapidly Changing and Collaborative World. His previous book, Leadership in a Wiki World: Leveraging Collective Knowledge to Make the Leap to Extraordinary Performance, won the 2011 EVVY book award for Business/Finance.  


Healthcare PlexusCalls

Wednesday, February 19, 2014- 1-2 PM ET

Minimally Disruptive Medicine 
Guest: Victor Montori



Physicians sometimes wonder, "Why don't my patients follow the instructions I give them?" Patients sometimes wonder why their physician can't just give them a quick treatment that will make them well. But chronic disease is the epidemic of our times, and usually requires lifetime management. Much of that management must be done by the patient, who will need to find a way to fit medical and lab appointments, exercise, medications and dietary changes, into a life already busy with family and work.

Victor Montori, a professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic, Carl May, a professor of medical sociology at Newcastle University and Francis Mair, a professor of primary care research at University of Glasgow, decided to explore this issue, the burden of treatment, by learning from patients, especially the patients with multiple chronic comorbidities or cognitive impairment-two groups that are often excluded from studies examining adherence. Among those they talked with were a man who in the previous two years had visited specialist clinics for appointments, tests and treatment 54 times, the equivalent of a full day every two weeks. They discovered a woman whose doctors had prescribed medications to be taken at 11 separate times during the day, and she was having trouble managing this.

From this experience they began developing principles for "minimally disruptive medicine." You can learn more from a blog on the topic, a WSJ interview with Dr. Montori, or this musical (and factual) version. Read Dr. Montori's complete bio.  


Next Healthcare PlexusCall, March 19, 2014 - Listening to the Patient with guest Sally Okun.  




Friday, February 28, 2014- 1-2 PM ET

Innovative Scientist Empowers Patients Battling Rare Diseases 
Guests: Jimmy Lin and Trish Silber



Some 7,000 rare genetic diseases afflict about 30 million Americans and 250 million people world wide. Dr. Jimmy Lin, physician, computational geneticist, and oncology researcher, thought there had to be a way to help families struggling to find treatments for children with unusual and poorly understood conditions. Many families are finding a way through Dr. Lin's creative uses of high technology, crowd-funding, and help from friends and colleagues in science, medicine and academia.


Jimmy Lin, MD, PhD, MHS, is a 2012 TED Fellow and Founder & President of Rare Genomics Institute, the world's first platform to enable communities to leverage cutting-edge biotechnology to advance understanding of rare diseases. Partnering with top medical institutions, such as Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins, and Stanford, RGI helps custom design personalized research projects for diseases so rare that no organization exists to help. Previously, Dr. Lin was a medical school faculty member at the Washington University in St. Louis and, while at Johns Hopkins, led the computational analysis of the first ever exome sequencing studies for any human disease. He has numerous publications in Science, Nature Genetics, Nature Biotechnology, and Cell and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, BBC, TIME, CNN, and the Huffington Post.


Trish Silber is president of Aliniad Consulting Partners, Inc., a Washington D.C.-based consulting firm focused on strategy, leadership, and organizational change. Her expertise is in executive coaching and in leading system-wide strategy and change efforts from a complexity perspective. She has over 25 years of experience consulting to businesses, government and non-profits. Trish earned an MBA from Santa Clara University and a BA in behavioral psychology from Connecticut College. She served on the faculty of the George Washington University graduate program on leadership coaching from 2001 to 2006. Trish is a former board member for Plexus Institute and currently serves on the board of the National Environmental Education Foundation and on the Advisory Council of The Leadership Sanctuary. She is a TED Fellow coach and participated in the 2012 and 2013 SupporTED Collaboratoria.



Audio from all PlexusCall series is available by searching the iTunes store for plexuscalls. Or, visit under Resources/Call Series. 


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