07 October 2009

Web 2.0 and Leadership

While reading War 2.0: Irregular Warfare in the Information Age, I thought of another way that the new media might change the way our military might operate: it might change the way we lead troops--in most cases, for the better. In the past two years or so, I've either witnessed or been a part of a number of incidents in the Web 2.0 world which certainly caused some radical (albeit, in some cases, reluctant) change on the part of military leadership.

One case (of many) in point. In 2008, Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division returned from a 15-month deployment to Afghanistan only to find that their barracks were in a gross state of disrepair: sewage was flowing through the bathroom drains, lead-based paint was chipping from the walls, and ceiling tiles were missing. (All of us who have been at Fort Bragg can probably attest to the article's claim that the contractors there must be "the world's slowest contractors"). One Soldier's father posted a video of the dilapidated barracks on Youtube, spurring instantaneous action.

The impact of the new media is that it makes our actions, as leaders, that much more transparent. Have an issue that you thought you'd cover up or sweep under the rug? Your real threat doesn't come from the Inspector General--it comes from a Soldier with a blog.

Many leaders fear this new technology, and for good reason. There is a belief that, now, Soldiers will have the power to countermand their decisions and usurp their authority. Not entirely--good leadership mitigates much of the risk from these new technologies. It also hammers home the importance of ensuring that your message--as a leader--gets out before someone can publish bad news.

This trend is one worth examining at all levels of leadership. It's impractical to ban all blogs, Facebooks, and online posts as it is. Now try to stop spouses, girlfriends or family members from posting pictures or stories regarding anything from pay issues to poor living conditions. It's impossible to put the genie back in the bottle. Dealing with the pervasiveness of Web 2.0 technologies will require aggressive monitoring and tracking from all levels of command. Above all, it should hold leaders even more accountable--not only are their Soldiers watching their actions, but perhaps, the rest of the world is, too.

Focus: Has Web 2.0 spilled over into your work life? How do you feel about those under your command posting about work on the Internet? How do we delineate the difference from legitimate complaints to outright vigilante bashing?

1 comment:

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 10/08/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.