What Bitcoin Can Teach Us About Decentralized Leadership

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September 3, 2021

4 minutes to read

Opinions expressed by Contractor the contributors are theirs.


Three years after its release Bitcoin’s famous white paper, Satoshi Nakamoto made a blunt exit from the digital phenomenon he created. In a message to a fellow software developer, Nakamoto simply said, “Let’s move on. He is in good hands … ”

And while Bitcoin’s long-term value is at the heart of the debate, Nakamoto’s choice to step down from the cryptocurrency bar has irrefutably altered the concept of decentralized leadership.

Once defined as a delegated leadership style – a style where senior managers empower middle and lower managers to make key decisions – with the advent of blockchain technology, decentralized leadership has evolved to include Decentralized Autonomous Organizations. These leaderless entities are owned by shareholders and are governed by democratic processes enshrined in the code and regulated by smart contracts.

This extreme version of decentralized leadership may sound futuristic, but the reality is that the pandemic has only deepened our understanding (and appetite) for decentralized work: from our office spaces, to our working hours, to our ability to make key decisions, we’ve grown accustomed to collaborating remotely and managing our own professional workflow.

DAOs are still a long way from the mainstream, but as distributed and hybrid workforces become commonplace, we can draw hints from Bitcoin’s anonymous creator on how to decentralize leadership to thrive in the pandemic age of work.

Related: Bitcoin Surpasses $ 50,000 For The First Time Since Spring

Operate from a place of trust

Most of us have now adapted to remote leadership, but the quality largely depends on the level of trust within our organizations. Studies show Employees in high-trust organizations are more productive, better able to collaborate, and stay longer than their peers in low-trust companies. However, building and maintaining trust in a distributed or hybrid workforce comes with a new set of challenges.

As a remote leader, I’ve struggled not to be able to read and respond to a coworker’s body language, for example, or experience spontaneous interactions that are less transactional in nature. These physical benefits go a long way in building trust and relationships, which lessens the shock when a conflict needs to be resolved. So how do decentralized leaders operate from a place of trust without having physical proximity to employees?

Taking a piece of advice from Nakamoto who outlined the vision and fundamentals of Bitcoin and then trusted the community to realize its potential, there is a lesson to be learned in creating a clear picture with ground rules defined. This formula provides structured autonomy, which allows employees the freedom to exercise their own judgment while giving leaders fair guidelines to fall back on when work goes off the rails.

Don’t let geography be a barrier

Just as Bitcoin knows no borders, companies no longer need to limit hiring to the local talent pool. While global hires were previously reserved for multinational companies, many SMEs like mine are now starting to make their first hires outside the region.

While this adds diversity in talent, it also adds a layer of complexity for leaders, who are looking to streamline operations between different locals. Not only should protocols be in place to accommodate different time zones and holidays, but also to provide senior management access to avoid proximity bias, especially in hybrid scenarios, where executives share physical space with a common group of employees.

When it comes to Bitcoin, which has over 100 million owners spread across the globe, what binds its global community amidst its challenges – from market volatility to ease of use and regulation – is a shared belief. in its value. Likewise, leaders are most successful when their organizations have a strong purpose and hire employees who align with their mission and values, wherever they are located.

Seek to level the playing field

Bitcoin’s infrastructure has produced a microeconomics of peer-to-peer financial services that benefit billions of underbanked people, often from low-income households or from developing countries, representing new possibilities for financial inclusion.

At its best, decentralized leadership also encourages inclusiveness, enabling employees at all levels to voice their opinions, solve problems, and contribute to an organization’s overall strategy. As we’ve seen with Bitcoin, inclusive infrastructure can produce new market opportunities that benefit large populations that might otherwise be underserved.

Much of this year has been spent embracing and adjusting to the unexpected. As difficult as it may be in the face of new challenges, learning to rely on the collective intelligence of our teams and empowering those around us, is the next frontier of leadership and wired or not, it is proving fruitful.


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