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The Role of Technology in Management Leadership

Over the last sixty years of business activity, there has been new ways and means of conducting business through something we call technology. Technology is the advancement and use of electronic devices and other high-tech equipment to produce and progress knowledge into the future. Advancements in technology have affected management leadership in many ways over the last sixty years. New technology has altered leaders’ consciousness, language, and the way they view their organization.

Technological advancements have made things easier for those in management leadership roles. But as with anything, there are positive and negative aspects of technology on leadership. Some of the positive aspects of technology are: the availability and use of wireless networking, collaboration tools, digital video, handheld devices, and videoconferencing. On the other hand, the negative aspects of technology are: it offers less privacy, it allows for less interaction with others, and it runs a high risk of contact with viruses.

On the more positive side, wireless networking allows leaders to share resources with their team operating by means of wireless media, such as microwaves, cellular technology, and radio frequencies. Wireless networking is paving the way for technology integration around the world. The use of collaboration tools allows ongoing conversations among leaders, their subordinates, board members, and community members. Professional development is one area where collaboration can have an enormous impact on management leadership.

When leaders can casually share new approaches and practices with each other through a technology connection to their workplace, both leaders and their team will benefit. One way of doing this is to create an Internet mailing list where they can share questions, problems, solutions, successful techniques, and less successful techniques. The Internet is enabling digital video to achieve professional-quality and two-way interaction. This will be one of the rare cases where management leadership will be leading a technological shift in society as a whole.

Hand-held devices are high-tech gadgets, now more powerful than early Windows or Macintosh machines. Handheld devices offer more versatility than full-size computers and are much more portable than the alternative personal device, the laptop. For leaders especially, this take-along advantage lets them develop a feeling of ownership, as the device is ever-present and ready to take on the current task. In addition, many of the newest handheld models can be wirelessly networked, which means leaders can send and receive e-mail and surf the Web without having to “synch up” to a computer.

Video-conferencing is a three-dimensional, top-quality audio and video virtual reality telecommunication that will allow leaders to examine minute objects through remotely controlled microscopes. Videoconferencing technologies use a compressed video system to transmit information from one location to another either via the Internet or a telephone line. On a more negative note, when leaders are using some of the technological advantages as mentioned above, they run the risk of reducing the privacy of their organization.

Privacy is a privilege that we take for granted in this country, yet it is strongly threatened by advances in technology. The ability of political and economic institutions to discover private information about individuals and organizations is overwhelming. Some of the various ways that information about an organization’s activities can be collected without their knowledge or consent are: through cookies, browsers, search engines, electronic commerce, E-mail, and spam. The threat of spyware and other security threats are unlikely to be eradicated.

Hackers, criminals, and others with ill intent will always attempt to avoid the intentions and protections of users in an effort to exploit PCs and networks for vandalism or profit. Viruses are called viruses because they share some of the traits of biological viruses. A virus passes from computer to computer like a biological virus passes from person to person. Viruses show us how vulnerable we are. A properly engineered virus can have an amazing effect on the worldwide Internet. On the other hand, they show how sophisticated and interconnected human beings have become.

In top performing organizations, each area is strong and constantly improving. For example, in our technological age, leaders need to ensure that they’re constantly upgrading their technical expertise and technological tools. They can’t afford to fall behind. In many cases, the laptop computer can be a huge help with email, time management, storing and easily retrieving information, keeping contact and project records, maintaining databases, developing slides for presentations and workshops, and accessing a multitude of information and research through the Internet.

Without it, most leaders would be thirty to forty percent less productive and would need much more administrative help. If leaders’ understanding of their organization’s expectations is only partially accurate, expensive technology and reengineered processes will only deliver partial results. If leaders in our organizations cannot communicate face-to-face, electronic communications won’t improve communications very much. If management leadership has not established the discipline of setting priorities for their time or organizing themselves, a laptop computer or other wireless mobile device will not do it for them.

Systems and processes are also an extremely important area. An organization can be using the latest technologies and be highly people-focused, but if the methods and approaches used to structure and organize work is weak, performance will suffer badly. Leaders in organizations can be empowered, energized, and enlightened, but if systems, processes, and technologies don’t enable them to perform well, they won’t. Developing the discipline and using the most effective tools and techniques of management leadership, organization systems, and processes is a critical element of high performance.

The Performance Balance triangle has management leadership at its base, which is very deliberate. In well-balanced, high performing teams or organizations, technology, systems, and processes serve people. We have the opportunity to use technology for positive changes; however, ignoring the possible negative effects is not only naive but potentially dangerous. Moreover, leaders have to take actions to overcome the negative aspects of technology.

In order to tackle the risk of computer viruses, leaders should enlist the help of an information technology specialist who will then reassure the users and explain to them the no-fault assumption and assure them that any information they give will be treated confidentially. It is the duty of the IT specialist to confirm the presence of a virus, contain the initial infection, notify everyone within the department, and clean up the known infections. This includes installing the current anti-virus programs and the latest virus-signature file on the infected systems.

The IT specialist should find all infected diskettes and systems: check for possible computer server infections, check diskettes and PCs for viruses, and interview users to determine the source of the virus and where it may have spread to. Preventive actions must take place in management leadership in order to prevent the effects of viruses from destroying the infrastructure of an organization. These preventive actions should include: knowledge, policy, awareness, and anti-virus software. Leaders must educate users about viruses and how a computer can become infected.

Train them in the whole process of virus infection, from initial infection to final eradication. They should prepare a company virus prevention policy, which should include procedures in dealing with an infected environment, in handling Internet e-mail that originates from outside the company, in using computer storage, and in sharing of computer files and documents. Finally, the leaders should create a virus awareness program. If you are aware of any potential problem, you are more likely to prevent it from happening.

Create a computer bulletin board or billboard for users to exchange ideas and known viruses to be on the look out for. Finally, the leaders should have the IT specialist choose anti-virus software and install it in every computer system in the company. The virus software should be updated periodically to prevent infection from new virus strains. Along with the responsibility to protect against and prevent viruses, leaders have the role of privacy protection as well. Avoiding the attack of communication in transit is less a legal problem than a technological one.

There is software that can provide privacy protection for the individual Internet user. Hardware exists that can prevent very sophisticated industrial spying. Protection of email and the organizations most trusted and valuable information is of most concern to management leadership. The rising use of technology among leaders can challenge leaders to accomplish their goals. Leaders provide order in chaos, but technology is always changing. A good leader is knowledgeable of the positive and negative aspects of technology, and tolerates the uncertainty that is essential in it.

Leaders set effective goals, but technology’s future is unclear. A good strategy is to determine goals first and use technology second. Leaders utilize others’ competencies, but technology has challenged us to develop new competencies and reevaluate old ones. An organization usually has many leadership positions. In light of emerging technology, it may be time to create some new ones, such as information technology specialist and group web-manager. Not only will such a strategy improve the functioning of the group or organization, it can pull-in other types of member, who have not been seen as leaders traditionally.

Leaders are experts in communication, but technology both limits and enhances communication. Leaders should take advantage of technology that enhances communication. Leaders get and give effective feedback, but technology allows leaders to hide behind a screen. You can’t be a leader if you are in front of your computer screen instead of your members. Besides leading by example, you may purposefully want to find ways to get between your members and their computer screens. Leaders motivate others to get involved, but technology competes for attention.

Leaders are good time managers, but. using technology is a new learning task that dominates time. Leaders should allow more time for the technological solutions to common problems. Conversely, the Internet’s ability to link your group with similar ones is a wonderful thing, especially if your group has some extremely focused goals for a rather small student group. It is important to remember that the Internet is a public place, and you should never assume that something is secure.

Leaders should be the moral compass for groups, but… Technology has blurred some distinctions between what’s right and wrong. Many institutions have been caught in the discourse about websites such as Napster. Some people seem to want to have two sets of rules, one for the cold reality of the analog world and another for the magical digital world. It may take many years to establish equilibrium. In the meantime, be clear and consistent about expectations, after you’ve given full consideration to the implications. Choose your battles, but be prepared to say “let’s wait and see”.

Leaders appreciate differences, but technology threatens to marginalize others. As for any program goal, a leader should always ask “who gets excluded by this approach? ” There is a misperception among many leaders that technology is naturally bias-free: The research suggests otherwise. Furthermore, individuals from some backgrounds do not “buy into” or choose to participate in the emerging technology culture, as should be their choice. Be careful when a technological solution becomes the only solution.

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