Blinded by Expertise

I’m really interested in identifying the skills leaders of the future will need. This great SSIR article points to qualities that social change leaders need in the aggregation age we now live in. 

Our current leadership models are outdated. Today, we are living in the aggregation age. We have long since left the industrial age and have even moved through the information age. But our leadership models have not caught up.

The industrial age broke us into separate social systems—education, health, judicial, etc. The information age created experts who often had multiple degrees to prove it. Together, we’ve created sector specialists who argue that if only the social sector got more funding, it could change the world.

The challenge of treating social problems as distinct areas that require distinct expertise is that our world does not operate like a machine—it is an ecosystem in which everything is connected.

Facebook and iTunes are good metaphors for leadership in the aggregation age: They facilitate access to the kind of information we need when we need it.

Successful social change leaders in the aggregation age require six qualities:

  1. Translation—the ability to translate across sectors
  2. Jack-of-all-trades expertise—cross-sector knowledge
  3. Respect—an understanding that all sectors have a role to play in change
  4. Empathy—the ability to sit in the mindset of each sector
  5. Facilitation—the ability to create collaborative solutions
  6. Big picture thinking—the ability to see and describe “the elephant”

Blinded by Expertise

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