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Web Of Leadership

Sidebar: FC.Net - getting Started

Most of the World Wide Web sites on leadership are not interactive, which limits their value. But if you prefer scanning Web sites to receiving scores of e-mail from mailing lists, there are a few sites that are worth a look. Here are three of the best:

LeaderAid: Internet Resources for Leadership

Background: Developed by Bob Willard, an internal consultant on leadership development for IBM professionals. Contents: There are full-text papers such as "Ideas on Teams and Teamwork," a 38-page compilation of excerpts from 40 books on leading teams. If you missed the 1995 Systems Thinking in Action conference, you can download a 6-page summary. Comment: The paper on teams and teamwork makes this site a required stop for anyone who's seriously interested in the subject.

Center for Management Development

Address: mgtdev.htm Background: The Center for Management Development was founded by TQM specialist Martin Jacobs in 1990 to improve management techniques at small to mid-sized companies. Contents: The site features detailed descriptions of courses offered by the center, such as the seminar "Leadership for the '90s." Comment: The site is crammed with ads. But if you need hands-on help improving your skills, it's worth a look.

Covey Leadership Center

Address: Background: Leadership guru Stephen Covey has put his ideas on the Web. Contents: Leadership "profiles" offer computerized, anonymous feedback on an individual's "perceived leadership effectiveness" — using input from coworkers. Comment: There's more here on leading your life than on leading your business. Then again, maybe that's the point: the line between the two is blurring.

Sidebar: Leadership Elite

Two online conferences for the vanguard of the leadership debate. If leading is best learned by doing, then cyber-pioneers like Peter and Trudy Johnson-Lenz are doing the real learning online. The Johnson-Lenzes, who coined the term "groupware" in 1978, are creating an intimate electronic community conference called "Meaning and Wholeness in the Virtual Workplace." Running over Lotus Notes from March through July, the conference aims to cut through the tangled gabble of many online discussion groups and produce "deeply generative" conversations. Meaning and Wholeness is a private, limited group event, but it might serve as a model for other online leaders. People who are trying to learn over the Internet are often frustrated by this problem: huge mailing lists such as Learning Org have a few contributors and hundreds of "lurkers" who never post messages. Last October, for example, just 9% of the 1,632 Learning Org subscribers contributed messages. Such feeble participation limits the learning of all subscribers. Think about it: a message sent to 2,000 people whom you don't know, most of whom you've never even heard from, will be far less open than one sent to 20 virtual friends. Enter the Johnson-Lenzes. They are limiting the Meaning and Wholeness conference to 50 people. Each participant must spend at least three hours a week contributing to the discussions. Many of these folks are planning to design their own online communities. To keep things edgy, the moderators also invited "technical wizards, creative artists, and storytellers." The conference includes electronic discussions and a hypertext archive of concepts, tools, and resources. People are encouraged to practice what they learn in their workplace and share the results with the community. Since it's a closed group, with no access available to outsiders, the usual fears about confidentiality are unwarranted. An acolyte of the Johnson-Lenzes has started an even smaller network. Sheryl Erickson, formerly a consultant with the Framingham, Massachusetts-based Innovation Associates, has created an electronic community of 25 people called Turning Point. Erickson started the conference after realizing that people who were attempting to put the lessons of Peter Senge's "Fifth Discipline" ( Currency, 1990 ) into practice had a need to share their experiences with others who were doing the same. Turning Point comprises training and development people who are trying to help their companies become learning organizations. The conversation has five "threads" that are borrowed from the meeting councils of indigenous peoples: "stringing the beads" ( spontaneous thoughts ), "inquiry/dialogue," "storytelling," "process" ( suggestions for the stewards ), and "pragmatics" ( problems at work ). Participants must speak at least once a week, if only to identify themselves with a quick "I am here" or "Ho" ( the tribal equivalent of "You have been heard" ). Although she might invite others to participate, Erickson wants to keep the conversation "authentic, familiar, and intimate." Her ground rules: enter the circle "with a spirit of inquiry," listen deeply "with respect and honor," and speak from your "whole being." Our only reply to that is: Ho!

A version of this article appeared in the April/May 1996 issue of Fast Company magazine.