I have been thinking a lot about the style of business leadership that is most appropriate in our increasingly flat, globally integrated world, a world in which we are now able to tackle problems of an incredible complexity, in markets that are fiercely competitive and constantly changing, with organizations that reflect the complexity of the systems and markets with which we are dealing. It is pretty clear that the classic hierarchical style of management that served us well in the Industrial Age is not up to the task.
Similar discussions about leadership styles are taking place in political circles, most prominently around the concept of soft power. Soft power was first coined by Joseph Nye, professor of international relations at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. According to Professor Nye, if power at its most general level is the ability to influence the behavior of others to get the outcomes one wants, there are several ways to accomplish that. You can coerce them with threats; you can induce them with payments; or you can attract or co-opt them.
Soft power is all about getting others to want the outcomes you want without threats or payments - through co-option rather than coercion. At its essence, "soft power rests on the ability to shape the preference of others.”
“In the business world, smart executives know that leadership is not just a matter of issuing commands, but also involves leading by example and attracting others to do what you want. Similarly, contemporary practices of community-based policing rely on making the police sufficiently friendly and attractive that a community wants to help them achieve shared objectives." In international relations, "a country may obtain the outcomes it wants in world politics because other countries admire its values, emulate its example, aspire to its level of prosperity and openness."