Philadelphia’s innovation comes in many forms, not the least of which is thought leadership. Ben Franklin’s genius not only gave us many inventions, but also stressed the value of working together for civic and self-improvement. LEADERSHIP Philadelphia has honored and echoed his thought leadership with its pioneering work recognizing, researching and teaching the concept of Connectors as leaders.
The Connector project was inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s work in The Tipping Point. He said the Connectors – the trusted people who seem to know everyone – may actually make the world work. At the time I read the book I had been running LEADERSHIP Philadelphia for twelve years. It seemed that people simply defined leaders as CEOs and politicians. I was, however, seeing very effective leadership in the areas social and civic entrepreneurs, who acted like Gladwell’s Connectors. I decided to take a stand that Connectors are the new leaders. That view was reaffirmed by author Tom Friedman’s perspective, that leadership is no longer about command and control; it’s about collaborating and connecting. We assembled a multi-disciplinary team to source and study Philadelphia’s Connectors. The viral email nomination process yielded nearly 4500 nominations. We interviewed the top 100 Connectors to identify their behaviors so we could teach others to connect.
We created a competency model which explains key Connector behaviors:
Community catalysts: they consider service to the community (beyond their day job) as a critical component of their professional life.
Other oriented: they build rapport quickly and are adept at finding common ground.
Network hubs: relates to people from private, public and non-profit sectors. Keeps internal inventory of contacts and their wants and needs.
Navigates mazes: can handle broad range of challenges across sectors with broad range of skills.
Empowering passion: has contagious energy, makes others feel as if they can do more and be more.
Curious: fascinated by diverse people, places and ideas. Has confidence and operates in a wide comfort zone.
Trustworthy: what you see is what you get. Trusting and is trusted by others. Authentic.
Optimistic: sees possibilities that others may miss. Does not take no for an answer.
Results achiever: holds self and others accountable and always delivers on time.
Self-Starter: insinuates self into situations assuming they will be helpful, and they usually are.
LEADERSHIP Philadelphia has taught these competencies to hundreds of local leaders over the past dozen years, broadening the City’s definition of leadership beyond CEOs and politicians to the Connectors, who play well with others. These people influence decisions in all sectors by using their skills, knowledge and connections to collaborate, connect and get things done. This pioneering thought leadership has turned Malcolm Gladwell’s words into action. It represents innovation across sectors to weave the fabric of the city together, as Ben Franklin did long ago.