Book of the Day: Peer-to-Peer Leadership

* Book: Peer-to-Peer Leadership: Why the Network Is the Leader. By Mila Baker. Berrett-Koehler, 2013


From the publisher:

“Mila Baker believes that most of today’s leadership theories are old wines in new skins and still rely on the leader-follower hierarchy. Yet hierarchy is breaking down everywhere in society, from politics to religion to social relationships — and most particularly in computers and networking.

Baker’s inspiration is the peer-to-peer model of computing, which is also mirrored in social networking technologies where a network with “equipotent” nodes of power — think peer leaders — is infinitely more powerful than a “client-server” (i.e., leader-follower) network. By creating organizations with leaders at all levels, architects of peer-to-peer organizations can build flexibility, resiliency, and accountability.”


“* Shows that a radically decentralized approach can revolutionize leadership just as it has revolutionized computer networking

  • Turns leadership on its head—the job of the leader is not to tell followers what to do but to create, enable, and facilitate a network of peer leaders
  • Features examples of what some organizations are doing and what all organizations can do to implement and benefit from this new approach

Our leadership models are still stuck in a top-down, command-and-control, Industrial Age mentality. But our globalized, data-drenched, 24/7 world is just too complex, with too much information coming from too many different directions, for any single person or group of people to stay on top of it. The idea of hierarchy is breaking down everywhere, from politics to religion to social relationships—why should leadership be any different?

Mila Baker’s inspiration for a new way to lead is the peer-to-peer model of computing, which is also mirrored in social networking and crowdsource technologies. She shows that a network with “equipotent” nodes of power—think peer leaders—is infinitely more powerful than a “client-server” (leader-follower) network.

In organizations of equipotent nodes, leadership isn’t fixed or siloed — it shifts based on the particular strengths of individuals and the particular needs of a situation. Rather than being guided into narrow predetermined channels, information flows freely so those who need it can find it easily and are empowered to act on it immediately. Constant change is built into the very structure of these organizations, and giving feedback is no longer a separate (and often dreaded and ineffective) process but becomes an organic part of the workflow, enabling rapid course corrections.

Baker still advocates the need for top-level executives and senior leaders, but their job is to optimize the health of the network rather than issue commands. Companies such as Gore and Herman Miller practice these principles and have achieved long-term success—Baker provides a structure for this approach that any organization can adapt to build flexibility, resiliency, and accountability.” ([1])

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