Leadership In A “Wiki” World

Anyone who’s come into the orbit of a business school is no stranger to the word “leadership.” One comes across it over and over again, on admission essays; in interviews; within classrooms.

A firm grasp of the concept has always eluded me, appearing to be forever amorphous. The loss of clarity is only heightened upon reading about such trends as crowdsourcing.

So, sometime ago, I reached out to Bonnie Richley, professor at the Weatherhead School of Management—a rock star in the area of Organizational Behavior—to ask her, in essence, “What’s leadership?”

She couldn’t define it for me, but she spoke of “cooperative leadership.” In a nutshell, it posits that leadership should be diffused, not concentrated in a single individual. Instead of believing that one person alone can solve all the problems or that they alone should take all the credit for it, many should.

Her take on leadership meshes well with the emerging trend of “mass collaboration” as the dominant form of economic organization in the later 21st century, when corporations will be less pyramidal and more oblong.

In an increasingly wiki-ized world, where corporate hierarchies are somewhat cracking and the so-called “crowd” is being empowered to work together, as authors Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams predict in their book, “Wikinomics,” Richley’s model makes sense.


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