Leadership Lessons of Web 2.0 – Secret #4: Permission To Fail

This is the fourth in a series of posts looking as how aspiring leaders can learn from Web 2.0 practices and theory.

On The Web: On the web, users are accountable for their own behaviours in a community and in most cases, the community will create its own champions and police those who don’t meet community standards. The community will learn from its mistakes and get stronger, faster, better over time.

Take Wikipedia as an example – as most people know, not every entry is 100% factually correct, but the community’s passionate, engaged users they have learned how to correct most of the mistakes themselves.  If Jimmy Wales hadn’t given them this trust, Wikipedia would have faltered early and often and would’ve ended up no better than the Encyclopedia Brittanica or World Book.

Another example of how communities deal with ‘failure’… If Ralph writes a horribly inappropriate comment on Jane’s blog,  Jane’s community (the audience) has several methods of policing itself.  It can chastise the behaviour within the community (in the comments) or it can flag inappropriate behaviour directly to Jane.  The key is that Jane doesn’t necessarily have to be the first one to act every time someone is offensive – in fact, it’s more valuable for Jane to let the community sort out its own problems, because THAT’s what strengthens and defines the community.

As A Leader: In order to build trust and full engagement with your team, you need to be okay with failure, too.  If a team tries something that’s different than the way YOU would have done it and it doesn’t work, you can’t panic and madly reach for the reins again so you can re-assert control.  Just as you trusted the team with the initial idea and execution, you need to trust that the team will learn from its mistakes and get stronger and better from each failure.

And you need to build in mechanisms for the team to deal with problems on its own.  Yes, you still need someone that let’s people ‘flag as inappropriate’ situations that you must solve yourself.  However, as a leader, you can’t solve everyone’s problems all the time.  The team needs to learn to solve its own problems – just like on the web, that’s how the team gets stronger, faster, and better.

It’s not about you.  It’s about your team.

Have you ever succeeded because you’ve been given ‘permission to fail’?

Related Posts:

Web 2.0 Leadership Secret #1: Give Up Control

Web 2.0 Leadership Secret #2: Engagement

Web 2.0 Leadership Secret #3: Be A Valuable Community Member

Leadership Lessons of Web 2.0 – Secret #3: Be A Valuable Community Member

This is the third in a series of posts looking as how aspiring leaders can learn from Web 2.0 practices and theory.

On The Web: Take the example of two different types of bloggers.

Jim has a great looking blog with very compelling content.

Sandra has a basic template blog with relatively average content.

BUT, Sandra has a healthy stream of visitors to her blog every day, while Jim is quickly fading into obscurity.

Why does the mediocre blog win the race?  Because Sandra participates in online communities that are related to the subject matter of her blog.  She comments on other blogs, participates in forum discussions, and generously helps other bloggers where she can.  As a result, Sandra is seen as a valuable community member.  Other community members have gotten to know her and, as such, visit her site regularly.

On the flip side, Jim knows he’s got a great blog, but can’t be bothered with stooping to comment on other, inferior blogs.  He knows everything about his subject matter and adamantly believes that once people ‘find’ his blog, the crowds will come pouring in.

Unfortunately for Jim, they won’t.

As A Leader: You can’t just hire people and let them loose.  And you can’t force people to listen to you just because you’re the boss.  If Jim the blogger was a manager, his confidence and talent would lead him to automatically assume status as the ‘hub’ of the community.  While he may think he’s the hub, though, his team won’t.  That’s because, just like on the web, you have to earn loyalty.

And the way to earn it is to first become a valued and valuable member of your community.

  • So be generous.
  • Help out your team members when they need it.
  • Get to know them.
  • Support them when they’re having troubles and champion them when they succeed.
  • Teach them.
  • Coach them.
  • Support them.
  • Take an interest in their interests.

Once you become valued and relevant for your team, they will give you something far more valuable than the position of leader – they will give you the status and respect of a leader.

It’s not about you.  It’s about your team.

Related Posts:

Web 2.0 Leadership Secret #1: Give Up Control

Web 2.0 Leadership Secret #2: Engagement

Web 2.0 Leadership Secret #4: Permission To Fail

Leadership Lessons Of Web 2.0 – Secret #2: Engagement

This is the second in a series of posts looking as how aspiring leaders can learn from Web 2.0 practices and theory.

On The Web: What is it that defines Web 2.0? To me, it’s interactivity.  If Web 1.0 was a one-way ‘speech’ to the crowd or a ‘push’ of information, Web 2.0 is a dialogue, a conversation, and a two-way exchange.  Whether it’s the ability to upload photos to Flickr or videos to YouTube, or to add and edit information to entries on Wikipedia, or even to just comment on a blog, Web 2.0 is ALL about the engagement of the community.
And what happens to a community that is truly engaged?  They create astonishing value.  They come back to your site more and more regularly.  They participate and contribute more and more regularly.  They tell others about the great experience they’re having with you.  They CARE about you and your site!

As A Leader: Much like a web community, a successful team in an organization is an engaged team.  And – shocker! – the methods to increase engagement on your team are the same as they are on the web.

  • Make meetings two-way conversations.
  • Don’t make decisions in a silo – solicit input from the team.
  • One of the best pieces of advice on starting conversations on a blog is to ask questions of your audience – this is also the best way to begin to engage your team.
  • Seek information, don’t tell them the solution.

A leader cannot give a team a one-way step-by-step instruction manual and expect buy-in and passion.  However, if a leader creates an environment where new ideas are welcomed, new ideas are implemented, and successes are championed, teams feel valued and more confident in using their knowledge and expertise. Give them autonomy and empowerment, and the sky is the limit to the value they will create.
The reason you need to focus on engagement is this:
If you have a team that mindlessly repeats tasks exactly the way you prescribe them and clocks in at 9 and clocks out at 5, you’re a manager.

If you have a passionate team that shows up early and stays late (of their own accord), who are constantly suggesting ideas for how to do things better or creating brand new ideas for products and services, and who feel a sense of ownership in their roles, you’re a leader.

So spend your time thinking about how to make your team feel valued and they will solve the problem of making you and your organization successful.

It’s not about you.  It’s about your team.

What are some other areas of Web 2.0 that leaders (and teams) can learn from?  Please share your thoughts in the comments…

Related Posts:

Web 2.0 Leadership Secret #1: Give Up Control

Web 2.0 Leadership Secret #3: Be A Valuable Community Member

Web 2.0 Leadership Secret #4: Permission To Fail

Leadership Lessons Of Web 2.0 – Secret #1: Give Up Control

I was recently in a seminar about leadership and in the middle of the day, I had a revelation. The theory behind being an effective leader and leading a high-performance team is based on almost the exact same theory as Web 2.0.  I’ve created a series of posts revealing ‘The Leadership Secrets of Web 2.0’, which details some of the core tenets behind Web 2.0 theory and how they apply in real life situations as the leader of a team.
Secret #1: Give Up Control – The Power of One Vs. Many.

On The Web: Wisdom of the crowd (crowdsourcing) CAME from the web.  The web discovered the massive power, knowledge, and efficiency that results from letting go of control and trusting the community to help solve problems and come up with better ideas.  This is core concept of the Open Source movement and projects like Wikipedia – turn over the keys to the community and let them drive. After all, a few million brains are almost certainly more powerful than just yours.

As A Leader: The wisdom of the crowd is almost always greater than the wisdom of the leader, too.  Many leaders’ natural instincts tend towards control – they’ve likely reached ‘leader’ status because they have experience, they’re smart, and they’re good at solving problems and producing results.  So it’s often very tough for a leader to actively give up control over an idea, a project, or a problem and place that responsibility entirely with his or her team.

The reason why you have to give up control is this:

If you are the person solving your team’s problems and simply forcing them to execute your solutions, then you are a Manager.

If you are a person who sees your job as making your team work more effectively, growing their strength, earning their trust, and engaging their passion, you are a Leader.

It’s not about you.  It’s about your team.

So learn from the web.  Tell your team the desired outcome and then… give up control.  Hand over the keys. Take a leap of faith.  Put that faith in your team.  Prepare to be blown away.

In what other ways can Web 2.0 provide leadership models?  Let me know in the comments!

(This is the first in a series of posts about Web 2.0 Leadership Lessons.)

Related Posts:

Web 2.0 Leadership Secret #2: Engagement

Web 2.0 Leadership Secret #3: Be A Valuable Community Member

Web 2.0 Leadership Secret #4: Permission To Fail


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