Think about where crowds gather at work. Around the copy machine, near the coffee pot, or in the parking lot provides great gathering points for impromptu meetings which oftentimes lead to important changes in the organization. Ken Blanchard’s theory of managing by walking around teaches us that these ongoing conversations have a formative impact on an organization, and the wise leader stays mobile and available for these important learning moments.
Technology today has added a great deal of complexity to our capacity to form a crowd. With e-mail a leader may be brought into the virtual crowd after the discussion has evolved into a roar. Many organizations are teaming with conversations fueled by instant message chat pop-ups and texts going out to targeted individuals or specialized groups or teams.
Clearly, technology has allowed the gathering crowds to form much more quickly and quietly than ever before. Furthermore, their ability to reach out and connect so easily has brought unique leadership challenges and opportunities.
Challenges-In the past we could see conversations engaging and by walking around we could observe and perhaps join in. As work itself is much more decentralized, leaders are more likely today to be working with teams who are dispersed geographically, making it harder to connect.
Opportunity-A leader who is consistent and clear about his or her priorities, values, beliefs, and vision can use these faster and more flexible touch points to carry the message to the virtual crowd more quickly and communication can take place much more often.
Moving forward, how will leaders need to continue to rethink their powers of influence in a world where crowds gather both around the water cooler and in virtual, electronic clusters? How will it change leadership priorities and behaviors?