The Web3 revolution will transform more than just culture and technology; the underlying components of leadership will be redefined for a new era, according to Gerrie Hawes, Founder of Remotely Human.
Hawes says that while the last two years have accelerated the evolution of digital leadership, Web3 has the potential to drive additional change and reshape the way leaders operate and interact with colleagues.
The underlying premise of Web3 revolves around the transferal of power back into communities, it is a model which challenges hierarchical structures and traditional modes of management. Hawes believes this could require a significant degree of adaptation for leaders in the future.
£It’s still early days for the Web3 movement, but there certainly are interesting developments for leaders today,” Hawes says. “I think it’s important for leaders to be mindful of how they will need to operate and consider the skills that will be required to lead in the future – because it’s going to be a very different environment.”
Remote Working – a Testbed for Disruption
Hawes thinks this evolution has been a long time in the making. However, the switch to remote work presented an opportunity for leaders to experience the disruption of a shift to new ways of working and continue driving innovation.
In essence, pandemic-related leadership challenges have acted as a testbed for what will likely be required for the adjustment to a Web3 working environment.
“The last two years have been a real learning curve for leaders, who have found that controlling all the people all the time doesn’t work,” she says.
“More than anything though, this period has made people recognise that leaders have to nurture community. We’ve been seeing these trends build for some time in terms of the evolution of leadership and what’s required, and the pandemic accelerated this.”
Hawes anticipates that traditional hierarchical leadership structures will gradually be replaced as Web3 continues to mature. And within this, the rise of decentralised autonomous organisations – or DAO’s – represent an exciting proposition for both workers and leaders alike.
These member-owned communities operate without a centralised leadership structure – instead relying on a democratised system of shared responsibility in which members vote on policies, actions and potential changes.
Notably, the rise of the DAO has been influenced by the growing gig economy, Hawes believes.
“With the gig economy you have to consider how workers connect, engage and work together – and often they’re not part of a hierarchy, so to speak,” she says.
“You also have to consider that people have been working autonomously and in isolation during the pandemic. Combine this with a new phase of technology and it’s inevitable that you’re going to have questions raised about how leadership functions.”
The Problem with Traditional Leadership Models
Hawes believes the DAO’s potential to disrupt traditional leadership methods should be welcomed. Because it offers a chance to eliminate traditional issues surrounding enfranchisement and representation for workers.
“The problem lies with leadership at a lot of organisations, where decisions are made by an elite few as opposed to an elect few,” she explains. “So any decision – be it on spending or activities – is made on a senior level and people feel disenfranchised by not having any say.”
Admittedly, Hawes says this poses a quandary for the modern leader. Rejecting new ideas surrounding equity of decision making could harm an organisation’s ability to retain talent as staff leave for firms with flatter leadership structures.
However, by adopting a DAO-based approach they must also consider whether traditional ‘leadership roles’ would be rendered obsolete. Ultimately, she believes that modern, agile leaders who are prepared to swim rather than sink will benefit from the DAO and embrace change.
“In the future, great leaders will learn about some of the reasons people are disgruntled and why they dislike hierarchical organisations. They’ll know how to create an environment where there’s a ‘best of both worlds’ approach.”
A key differentiator for digital leaders will be soft skills, Hawes says. In fact, in the future the term soft skills will likely be replaced with ‘core skills’ as people in positions of authority are required to improve their connection with staff.
“The future of leadership will require people to dial up these vital core skills and really improve those connections on a human-to-human level with your people. Because as tech becomes increasingly important, that human connection is going to become more important.”
No ‘One Size Fits All’
Hawes emphasises that there will be no ‘one size fits all’ method for leadership in the Web3 era.
The reality is that some people simply do not like the control that a DAO places in the hands of the majority. Similarly, many enjoy working in some form of hierarchical leadership structure.
Traditional structures provide ease of mind with regard to decision making, and crucially for some, enables them to visualise a clear route of advancement within an organisation.
Long-term, workers within hierarchical leadership structures will see the benefits of decentralised styles, Hawes believes. Agile, forward-thinking leaders will naturally gravitate toward methodologies that maximise efficiency and improve business outcomes.
“Hierarchical organisations will remain, naturally. But the advent of the DAO is good news for workers, because leaders will inevitably look to incorporate some of these elements in their own organisations to improve worker experiences.”
Web3 Leadership Tips
So how can digital leaders prepare for the Web3 era? Hawes outlines four specific focus areas which could enables leaders to unlock greater collaboration, communication and enhance workforce efficiency.
“It’s important for leaders to reflect and think about if they are content and happy,” she says.
“There is a lot of evidence that you make better decisions when you are happy, your strategies are clearer and you bring your team together in a more efficient manner.”
Good leaders need to have a clear, optimistic vision. Those who embrace optimism are better placed to present teams with exciting, achievable futures rich in purpose.
“This is important as it helps improve team cohesion and let people know what they are doing and where they are going.”
Creativity in the workplace is crucial, which isn’t news to many. However, Hawes notes that many leaders wrongly conflate creativity with simply working harder – and this has been a recurring issue since the onset of the pandemic.
“We need to ensure that people are more playful with what’s possible at work,” she says. “The classic ‘agile’ methodology wasn’t just about allocating work, it was about pondering if it was the ‘right’ work.”
A key component of the critical ‘core skills’ Hawes believes are essential to future leaders centres around empathy.
“This is about understanding the different ways that people learn and process information,” she says. “And understanding why they work and what their intentions are. If you want to be a leader that’s ready for the future. You’ll take that into account.”
DIGIT Leader 2022 | Join the Conversation
Gerrie Hawes will explore what leaders can learn from Web3 at the upcoming DIGIT Leader Summit on 28th April.
She will join an impressive conference line-up, including presenters from Skyscanner, BAE Systems, MadeBrave, AND Digital, HSBC, Waracle, Netwomen.io and Hanya Partners.
To secure your place now, visit: https://www.digitleaders.com/
The conference is free to attend for people working in IT / Digital and C-level leadership roles in end-user organisations.