Leadership is being discussed everywhere.

The challenges for leaders abound.  From the need for speed, information overload, customer and shareholder demands, loss of control, employee engagement, innovation, disruption and more.

John Geraci in his article ‘What I learned from trying to innovate at the New York Times’ writes about the company moving from an entrepreneurial leadership model to growth minded leadership in an attempt to innovate and find new paths to growth.

His story confirms that neither of these approaches worked, and that what was missing at the New York Times – and the rest of the corporate world – was the Ecosystem Mindset.

The Organism vs Ecosystem mindset

He talks about organisations resembling organisms, with discrete boundaries, inputs and outputs and wholly internal engines.  Like a giant animal with head, eyes, mouth, and stomach.  It’s how we were taught to think of organisations, and it was useful when change was slow compared to now.


Organisation = organism mindset

  • Network is inside the building
  • Bounded entity, complete unto itself
  • Siloed, non-questioning
  • Slow to adapt
  • Stuck with old DNA while the world around them changes, recombines, evolves.


Organisation = ecosystem mindset

  • Network is outside the building
  • Part of a wider ecosystem
  • Interactive, always asking “is our network working?”
  • Fast to adapt
  • Able to grow, absorb, react and transform.

Traditional Leadership Thinking 

Nancy Duarte & Patti Sanchez said earlier this year:

“A leader’s job is to anticipate the future, to identify the trends that will affect their organization, and to guide and inspire people to move toward a better reality. Today more than ever, this job requires leaders to grasp the rapid rate of change in the business world and to build an organisation that’s capable of continually adapting.” – Nancy Duarte & Patti Sanchez, Duarte Inc. 17 Feb, 2016

This old hierarchical model of top down leadership places huge responsibilities on the singular, and lonely, leader.

Sure many companies’ DNA is still hierarchical and will take time to shift to something different, but the definition and expectation of a single leader as described above is doomed.

New leadership reality

The networked environment we now need to operate in recognises that leaders are everywhere, it’s no longer top down, control and command, single leader driven.

The new leadership required has these characteristics:

  • Decentralised and Distributed – self leadership, wherever you are, whatever you do in whatever role you are in
  • Agile and Adaptable
  • Facilitator and Enabler
  • Co-creator and Ideator
  • Collaborative and Interactive
  • Ecosystem mindset

I call the new leadership ‘invisible leaders’ or ‘connectors’.

It’s bottom up and individual.

Connectors are often invisible because they don’t self promote – they are self driven and intuitively work collaboratively to deliver results.

In the old organism mindset company, they are overlooked and under utilised.

Invisible leaders/ connectors are those who are doing what needs to be done without a mandate to do so and are often operating in the trenches.

If companies identify their connectors, they will find those who will lead the change required.

Invisible leaders/ connectors have these characteristics:

  • A wide angle lens, think outside the square
  • Apply critical thinking, challenge old constructs/status quo, want different not more of the same
  • A global, connected view and curious minds
  • Connect people across geographies and silos
  • Have a learning mindset
  • Give other people ideas
  • Build relationships
  • Are agile
  • At home in the networked environment
  • Have an ecosystem mindset.

In summary, and to echo John Geraci, the call to action is to harness your ecosystem by getting out of your building and interacting with your network.

The new value is outside not in. And there are invisible leaders/ connectors everywhere.

If you’re interested in Change Leadership you can reach me at www.judehorrill.com 

And come along to my next Change Hangout 14 July to be part of the Cultural Change – Monsters & Heroes session. A collaboration with Richard Claydon and Stefan Norrvall who pose the question ‘If art reflects our society’s fears and desires can we learn something from popular TV series? From Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead? From Tyrion in Game of Thrones? From Frank Underwood in House of Cards? Or from Walter White in Breaking Bad?’

Don’t miss this one.  It’s scarily good.