With the advent of the Information Age and increasingly rapid waves of technological change, the Alpha model of doing business -- top-down, command-and-control leadership like an army led by a commander whose orders flow in only one direction -- is on its way out. The Beta model is taking its place. The Beta environment functions like an orchestra where the conductor plays a coordinating role, but each member's input is distinct and critical, and a variety of musicians can have solos. Beta companies are communities, not armies. They are made up of shifting project or process-based teams instead of rigid functional silos.
The Beta paradigm offers the best opportunity for organizational success, because it provides individuals with the chance to achieve the emotional and psychological satisfaction often lacking inside Alpha organizations. At the core of Beta organization are what I call the three "C's."
Executives in Alpha organizations tend to hoard communication. Veteran employees often keep knowledge to themselves to protect their positions, while departments withhold information due to inter-departmental competition. In Beta companies, communication is viewed as a resource that should be harvested constantly. Fluid communication is facilitated and encouraged. This is critical if companies want employees to view their leaders as authentic, and in order for companies to provide real value to their customers.
The Alpha paradigm is all about the individual, but "going it alone" simply doesn't work anymore. Bosses and employees need to work together to solve problems and accomplish shared goals. The more collaborative opportunities a business offers, the more employees will feel a sense of ownership, resulting in vastly higher levels of productivity, efficiency and loyalty. Building collaboration also demands a new approach to recruitment -- one that focuses on finding employees who exhibit confidence and a willingness to think outside the box.
Increased communication and collaboration demands a new style of leadership. Beta leaders need to be curators, not commanders. They need to be able to collect, sort, analyze data and edit all communication and collaborative streams of information that could potentially influence their business. This means assembling employees -- all of whom are individual experts capable of idea generation -- and encouraging them to think new thoughts in different ways and challenging them to do new things.
The long-term success of both new and existing companies requires abandoning the old Alpha leadership and structural model and adopting the Beta paradigm. This approach will help organizations recruit, manage and retain the kind of talent they need to profit today and tomorrow.
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