The sparkling lights of leadership by the author, marketer and professional loudmouth Seth Godin sits between a couple of chairs, as the man himself deliberately does. For my money, Godin is predominantly the informal leader of a group of free-thinking marketers, self-proclaimed mavericks and innovative entrepreneurs.
He has written extensively on how cultural tribes are formed, shares insight into what makes out small and large group formations and why making business based on attracting communities is the business we are all in – whether we are conscious about it or not.
In this practice, Godin himself has shown considerable industry leadership, too. To an extent, this forms credentials for his group leadership. Especially in the innovative way he acts as an author and deals with publishing:
– Lately he created a campaign for an upcoming book ’The icarus deception’ on the crowd-sourcing platform Kickstarter, where he pledged for $40k and received over $250k within the set timeframe;
– he questions traditional trade routes by favouring to distribute his books in stacks of four to six, a very clever initiative to disseminate his books more widely, but also encouraging the reader to show group leadership by encouraging their network to follow their example;
– moreover, he shares his tricks of the trade in the public domain and by that, only increases his group leadership range.

LEADERSHIP TYPE: Group leadership, industry leadership
GOAL: Personal passion, business
CONTEXT: Post-marketing marketer’s world
ACTION: Innovation within publishing, ex. Crowd-funding for ‘The Icarus Deception’ to determine whether he should write the book; Distributing his books in packs; Or, removing the titles off the frontpage of books sold on amazon
METHODS: Book authoring and narrating, publishing, public speaking, teaching and lecturing, consulting
Immense industry influence
Large social media following and blog audience
TRANSFERABLE PRINCIPLE: The basic commodity we are all trading is trust, consider how you can become a voice of trust to your community

The type of group leadership getting the most press is the workplace leadership, typically performed by the boss, line manager, ganger, deputy, supervisor, master, proprietor, chief, in short, the leader of a group of people in a workplace. This person is usually responsible for the said group’s delivery, performance, development and peaceful everyday with one another.

Our common shelf space is increasingly occupied by the “How to be a good team leader“ titles, but its rare to hear someone going through the honest mechanics of what they’re actually doing – and making sense. I was witness to such a rare occasion by Danish newspaper boss extraordinaire Lisbeth Knudsen in a TV interview about a decade ago. In Denmark, Knudsen is generally accepted as one of the most successful and well-liked leaders the country has ever produced, and her approach is a renowned blend of common-sense, crude business acumen and the operational insight to combine these two in practice.

In said interview, she treated the audience to a practical example of her thinking. Here it is, quoted from memory: “I make a point out of prompting my staff to leave the office when I do, which is by and large no later than 6pm“ Knudsen said. When prompted, she explained why. In the field of journalism, as in many other competitive fields, you’ll find young ambitious professionals. Subject to their excitable drive, they often begin competing on being the best, which in their impressionable minds means working the hardest and working the most. Beginning with casual comments like “man, I had to do an all-nighter again”, “just another two-days-in-one at the office“ or “I work part-time – and fulltime“, this escalates to implicit rivalry of who stays the latest, sleeps the least and generally spends the least time doing anything other than working. In her experience, this happens bar none when a group of determined career-focused entry-level’ers come together.

Clarifying where the issue with this lies, she develops the thought: Lets say our young ambitious hero is in the process of starting a family. The partner eventually gets exhausted by the perpetual late-arrivals and general absent-mindedness, which is typically followed by divorce. From a workplace point of view, this is a year or two of desperation, separation and settlement, which is typically acted out as the employee being either on the phone to the ex splitting up the household, the dog and the children, distressed about said settlement or being drunk or hung-over. Needless to say, neither states of mind are fantastic for the employer; Then comes the second round of being drunk or hung-over, which is also known as the “celebration of regained freedom“, characteristically not good for business, either; In the best-case scenario this period is succeeded by falling in love, courtship and possibly settling back down. Again, a phase that doesn’t see a terribly career-focused employee. Aggregated, this is a half-year to five year cycle and according to our narrator, and a time in which the employee performs to about half of their capability.
Thus, Lisbeth Knudsen concludes her tale with the assertion that the extra evening hours on a daily basis simply aren’t worth the years of disturbance they often result in. It is not good business, she states, ohya, and the human consequence is awful, too.

This practical example of leadership reasoning has stayed with me for its impressive simplicity. For my money, when Lisbeth Knudsen sweeps her office for employees when she leaves, she performs an act of a savvy businesswoman, human kindness possibly even wisdom.

LEADERSHIP TYPE: Group leadership, industry leadership
GOAL: Business, good team
PERFORMED BY: Lisbeth Knudsen, Dr. Phil & MA Anthropology
CONTEXT: Managing director and Editor in Chief of Weekendavisen, Danish newspaper
ACTION: Made the business case of having a team with a private life thus: Young ambitious journalist stays long at work, effects his/her judgement and potentially destroys social relations. He/she is in divorce batlle for 12 months, extensively outgoing and dating for 12 months (hungover, drunk or distracted) and then settles back in. That ´s 24 months of distracted workforce as a consequence of staying late – plus the ethical concerns
METHODS: Team leadership
IMPACT, OR DERIVED, ESTIMATED OR EXPECTED IMPACT: Hopefully a team of happy people (?)
TRANSFERABLE PRINCIPLE: Understand the law of unintended consequences and reverse engineer to work against it

As far as group leadership goes, its hard to be more present than the global phenomenon known as TED has come to be an authority of all things innovative, thought provoking and generally worth knowing about. As overwhelming as its success over the last decade has been, it is well-timed group leadership of a worldwide community of self-defined innovators and independent thinkers.

TED stands for technology, entertainment and design and hails from Silicon Valley back in the glorious early eighties. It ticked along throughout the nineties and early noughties with a very Silicon Valley mix of speakers from science, philosophy, music, philanthropy etc.

It was when Chris Anderson assumed leadership over TED in 2002 that it began transforming into the confident platform of ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’ that we know today. TED showcased industry leadership the publishing business in introducing a freemium model and making their talks freely available on the web as early as 2006. Their community of TEDsters only saw this as walking the walk and TED continued expanding their branches to TEDGlobal, TEDfellows, TEDprize, TEDbooks and the ever-present TEDx events, and surely there will be much more coming in the future!

LEADERSHIP TYPE: Group leadership, industry leadership
GOAL: Business, spreading ideas, equality of access to ideas
PERFORMED BY: Changing TED teams, The Sapling Foundation
CONTEXT: Contemporary society, where content flows
ACTION: Curating talks, conferences and content; Condencing content to short format, Publishing worldwide free-of-charge
METHODS: Events, Publishing
TEDx in approx 150 countries, TEDprize, TEDed, TEDmed, TEDbooks
TEDfellows, Open Translation Project, TEDu
> 1b views of talks online
TRANSFERABLE PRINCIPLE: Understand what your key value is and
adapt it to as many different contexts as possible; give away the basic model for free and charge a high rate for the premium experience

Within the category of group leadership, there is even a group that develops group leadership as such. They are a worldwide network of practitioners and trainers, describing themselves as:
‘The Art of Hosting is an approach to leadership that scales up from the personal to the systemic using personal practice, dialogue, facilitation and the co-creation of innovation to address complex challenges.’
In other words, they consciously work with the messy situations, that usually occur when we try to act together, simultaneously, aligned and at best even co-create. The Art of Hosting develops methods for collective decision-making, harvesting conversations and working in informal groups. It turns out that there is a craft to group leadership and importantly, The Art of Hosting walks the walk and develops those methodologies as a group.

LEADERSHIP TYPE: Group leadership
GOAL: Spreading the craft of group leadership, Business
PERFORMED BY: Art of Hosting trainers and network
CONTEXT: Contemporary society with increasing desire to understand collaboration techniques
ACTION: Advocating, training, awareness raising, publishing
METHODS: Workshops and publication channels
Increasing community of practitioners and evangelists
Increased group leadership
TRANSFERABLE PRINCIPLE: How things are being done is often as im¬portant as what is being done, deliver the message in a way that supports and amplifies the message, open up and collaborate

Leadership series: Group leadership