David Weinberger is a regular guest at Le Web and my personal favorite. He is the kind of speaker that makes me put down my laptop and iPhone and just pay attention. His stories are entertaining, funny and inspirational. I remember a few LeWeb’s ago that we struggled through a few panel discussion that just couldn’t grab my attention. Then Weinberger came on stage and started talking. His passion and devotion to his work was both funny and memorable. I wrote down several lines from his speech which made me miss at least three sentences. One thing I remember and have used several times since then is “Hyperlinks are little acts of generosity”. When Weinberger speaks, I listen.
So today I sat there, all ready, waiting for David.
Weinberger’s presentation was titled “leadership at the end of the age of information” and was a joy to listen to, as expected. The point he tried to make was that in the past leadership knew everything and leads by keeping information limited to their followers. In the past information naturally flowed up to the leaders, at the top. Now information is everywhere and available for everyone. This means that the unnatural position of one man, knowing everything, at the top of the pyramid will come to and end.
The most clear example of this taking place, Weinberger argues, is the difference between Jack Welsch and Jimmy Wales. At WikiPedia Jimmy Wales only has to make decisions when the community can’t. He doesn’t lead by example. He doesn’t ‘lead’ at all. He is the man at the top of the pyramid but instead of steering the large group below him he actually follows them from the back and picks up any problems that stay behind.
In the future leadership needs to be abundant and shared. There are not enough Steve Jobs’ to manage and dictate all the great companies the world needs. We already have an abundance of good stuff (and crap) on the web and that is quickly changing everything on and offline. With an abundance of distributed leadership we will be able to innovate even more, be more successful and grow faster. Well, according to Weinberger, of course.
Although I loved listening to his presentation the basic idea of why WikiPedia works was slightly disappointing to me. What do you think? Is Weinberger right?