Thursday, April 24, 2008

What about Linden Lab's new CEO?

Several people have asked me to comment on Linden Lab's new CEO, Mark Kingdon but the fact is, I don't have a lengthy analysis or random speculation based on Mark's background or experience. Rather I will spend my time, just like I do with any Second Life resident less than six months old, and watch his actions as a leader for a few months. One of the first things I noticed is that he called Philip and asked for the job, that to me is a very positive sign (and apparently the phone is still more reliable than twitter).

It's been my experience that the best leaders utilize their past as a way to become more aware, flexible and adaptable to the next new leadership challenge. Despite what HBR might desire, there are no magic recipes, sidebars or otherwise that prove effective in every situation. Each challenge is unique, and while we residents see a certain face of Second Life based on our own experience and level of participation, Mark will likely see things differently from his vantage. Watching his actions often provide some insight into what that might be, and how he can turn his past experience lessons toward the new job. It's likely that at least we all agree that the problem is complex and infinitely fascinating.

Given the change of leadership, what type of leadership model might emerge?

There is a model I was taught long ago called "Mister Inside and Mister Outside" (sorry, I didn't pick the term Mister, but we are still living in the day where that is 98% accurate in the largest organizations.) The concept is simple, Mister Outside is the outward facing leader shaping the thoughts, behaviors and actions of those "outside" the organization. Mister Outside may take many forms such as a visionary, a spin master, a business developer, or a lobbyist; they can be someone that keeps the wolves at bay or someone that shapes the face of the company to make it attractive to others.

It's Mister Inside, however, that runs the day to day of the business. Let's call him the redshirt; the one that is spending inordinate hours in the details - sometimes in sync with Mister Outside, and sometimes in spite of him and likely to meet a tragic end over time. Looking back, the Philip-Corey pairing leaned toward this model although I suspect Philip had a heavier hand in the day to day operations than a classic Mister Outside.

Organizations that exist under this model with a weak Mister Inside, or one that is not well aligned with Mister Outside are often fraught with a personality or identity disorder. You will often find them choosing "sides" or developing factions of thought and progress is haphazard. This is the downside of the model, but there is an upside if a) there are positive benefits to having strong external partnerships for growth and b) there is significant upheaval on the inside that Mister Outside acts as a shield until order can be restored.

Without jumping to conclusions, will someone let me know if they see M Linden wearing a red shirt?

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