12 Competencies for Network Leadership

From IIW

12 Networked leadership competencies

Tuesday 1J

Convenor: Mei Lin Fung @meilinfung httpo://peoplecentered.net

Note taker: Mei Lin

Discussion notes, key understandings, outstanding questions, observations, and, if appropriate to this discussion: action items, next steps:

We talked about the Wells Fargo scandal and if and how any of the 12 leadership competencies might have been helpful or relevant.

Peter, Joyce and Kaliya and I had a great conversation about this. Peter brought up how these competencies were encompassed in the 3 words Procter and Gamble used in training employees:

  • Envision
  • Energize
  • Enable

We recognized that this level of effective work inculturation is no longer happening.

Other companies that have been doing this are Johnson and Johnson, Intel, and countries: Singapore,

The origin of the competencies out of the work funded by the US Dept of Defense looking at the Future of Health. See background.

Background on People Centered Internet and the competencies

Our digital inclusion projects across the world are linked by a common intention to improve lives. This common intention forms the foundation for why we collaborate. Other attempts to convene and act together falter when it comes to working together in a network to achieve goals beyond the agenda of each individual institution, organization or government – sometimes attempts to coordinate and collaborate internally falter.

PCI emerged from a multi-year project conducted by the US Federal agencies involved in health, including the US Public Health Service. Funded by the US Dept of Defense, we took a step back to consider amongst all the options available to the wealthiest country in the world, what strategy over decade would bring together federal, state and publicly funded agencies to work with the private sector and local communities to achieve health as a national strategic security imperative.

The concept of the co-evolution of human processes with the emergence of the Internet was first articulated by Dr. Douglas Engelbart, leader of the Augmentation Research Center at SRI in Menlo Park, known for the invention of the computer mouse, the father of human-computer interaction, hyperlinks and more. Engelbart’s lab was not only the second node on the Arpanet that connected to Vint Cerf and Len Kleinrock at UCLA, he proposed that the technology which he envisioned was so powerful, it needed the development of human interaction in communities networked together, to assure that humanity would be the ultimate beneficiary of these new tools which have already transformed our world.

The US Air Force had funded Engelbart’s early work and Col. Brian Masterson kept in touch with Engelbart over the years. In 2008, the 40th anniversary of the “Mother of All Demos” where Engelbart demonstrated the mouse, remote video conferencing, hypertext and more, the incoming Air Force Surgeon General Bruce Green took the first step to convening of a strategic think tank to look at the future of health and invited representatives of Engelbart’s thought leadership to Sterling Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas. At that February 2009 gathering Mei Lin Fung presented the concept of Networked Improvement Communities and was one of the 5 out of the 17 thought leaders to be invited to form the core of what became the Federal Health Futures initiative.

Over the next four years, the concept of networked improvement communities emerged as a robust capability to be developed that could be strategic to a better future of health and thriving for the US and for the world. Federal health leaders were convened in roundtables, across department silos and functional specialties to consider how to develop this capability. Dr. Jonathan Woodson, UnderSecretary of Health Affairs at the Dept. of Defense concluded that the emerging Defense Health Authority would need new leadership competencies for operating in a networked world. This notion was not so surprising in the Dept. of Defense because in response to the 9/11 attacks, the US active military had already concluded that the traditional Command and Control hierarchical system had not been effective against the Al Qaeda network and the new technologies of the internet and mobile telephony required new leadership strategies. Deploying network capability and developing network leadership as a response to the national security threat has been part of the shift in the active military side of the Dept of Defense.

The networked capability and networked leadership imperatives for health emerged naturally within the Federal Health Futures initiative which began with alternative future scenario development. We examined many future scenarios and determined ways which we could build capability so that no matter what future emerged, we would be better equipped to deal with whatever came.1

Culture takes years to change – institutions are resistant to new ideas. Yet all those involved in the Federal Health Futures saw it as a unique opportunity to serve the public in ways that might enable the public to be served in new ways by utilizing the emerging networks in all spheres of private and public life.

The Internet and technologies provided a means for tracking not just immediate actions but series of actions and decisions over time. And for tracking not just the actions, but the actual processes under which the actions are taken, including when the process works to achieve the intended outcome and when the process has inadvertent consequences. Finally, the Internet and technology can track the purpose of the processes, the parameters and conceptual framework for the process design so it can be evaluated whether it achieves not just the objectives and goals, but also fulfils the intentions of the framers.

The Federal Health Futures built on the concept of the US Air Force OODA loop: Fast flying aircraft require adaptive response to the environment and the decisions and actions of other aircraft in the air, whether friend or foe. This was encapsulated in the feedback loop which when executed repeatedly gets closer to the goal.


Within a network where information is routed at the speed of light, where more information than one human brain can process arrives, where effective decisions with long term implications must consider hundreds or even thousands of factors, only technology can handle the processing.

A key outcome of the Federal Health Futures initiative was the development of a feedback loop that ties different levels of hierarchical decision making together in a way that provides human oversight at key points of policy and decision making. This diagram offers a compass for the feedback loops required for operating a network of disparate players with different goals who work together on an overarching goal. Engelbart’s insight was that coordination and collaboration do not require constant knowledge by everyone of everything. But that information needs to be shared only when overlapping interoperating actions, processes and strategies are underway in which multiple independently operating players are involved concurrently.

The design and ongoing oversight of complex systems requires human judgement to assure that the technology serves the humans and is not hijacked by players with aims which would sacrifice the whole of humanity to achieve shorter term or individual or tribal objectives like power, influence and wealth.

A protocol for aligning actions between multi-stakeholders in a networked world can enable levels of collaboration that are currently unattainable. Not because the tools don’t exist, but because the culture, learning and practice needs to emerge.


The People Centered Internet raises the flag, the Strategic Why for all technology initiatives and projects: Does this ultimately serve humanity?

  • Can you share a story that represents why this work is so important to you?

My great great grandfather was an indentured slave who left China during the famine, to work in the sugar plantations of British Guyana. I inherited his great energy and vision which enabled him to start a provision store and educate his children, they became wealthy enough that his grandson Samuel Fung was sent to London to study law. Samuel decided to take a detour to Southeast Asia on his way back to South America. There he met my grandmother in Penang Malaysia and married and my father was born there. The family moved south, Samuel Fung was a respected member of the community, a London educated lawyer, when the Japanese invaded Singapore during World War II. The occupiers sent a letter summoning him to meet them. He had breakfast that morning then cycled from his home and was never seen again. His name had been given to them as an enemy collaborator – we believe it might have been someone jealous of his position in the community, he was completely unsuspecting of why they might have called him up and went willingly.

As a lawyer he respected the rule of law, he believed that societies are stronger and people are better together when we abide by the common “rules of the road” and respect the institutions around us. At a time of disruption, his notions which had served him well up to that point, made him trust that an innocent person would not be mistreated.

If we want to function as a society, this trust is essential. We are stewards of that trust for humanity, each person has a responsibility to make sure that the institutions that operate around us earn and keep our trust. This is something that the Internet has emerged from – many people from many cultures coming together working to earn and keep the Internet functioning.

The Internet may be the most disruptive tool that humanity has encountered since the printing press. The printing press made it possible for ordinary people to participate at the highest levels. It led to the English reformation, the scientific Enlightenment, the American Revolution and much much more.

The Internet also offers one of the most powerful tools for existing powers to consolidate their authority and power.

Humanity faces a fork in the road – do we let unseen and unknown forces take hold of the steering wheel and take us “we know not where”, or do we decide that this tool can be a tool which offers people greater opportunity to realize the potential of each human being.

If we decide it's the second fork we want to take. There is work to be done because others are already working and working hard on the first, using the Internet to realize their own individual, organizational, corporate or national agendas to the detriment of others.

The People Centered Internet emerges now at the next phase of the evolution of the Internet, to hold the flag high, that we must earn and keep trust for the Internet to realize the potential it offers in catalyzing innovation in networks, and in the process, many future generations of people will find and develop their passions while contributing to a better future.

We must learn to get better at getting better together. Our Institutions have developed in a “top down” world that has developed over millennia. When things go bad, we instinctively look to an authority figure to tell us what to do. When we try to collaborate, someone often steps up and says, “let’s do it my way”. Network capability exists now but we do not yet know how to take advantage of it. After reading and writing were invented it took centuries before universal education became a priority. Breakthroughs can emerge from the most unlikely places. Internet inclusion can unleash new frontiers of innovation by teams of unlikely people.

Our strategy is for people to work in learning networks of communities: Where people learn from others to improve their own communities.

It is a very different way to work that requires new protocols. We must develop trust and learn to listen and think adaptively. We can set goals as a network and work together as a network to realize them.

In the Federal Health Futures initiative, we realized that the power of networks was the most effective for getting better health at lower costs. Dr. Jonathan Woodson convened a multi-stakeholder summit over 2 days with federal health leaders, jointly with his counterpart Dr. Howard Koh at the Dept. of Health and Human Services in September 2012. We examined what was stopping progress and where breakthroughs had occurred. Both Dr. Woodson and Dr. Koh said that this came down to leadership:


That we needed new competencies for leaders operating in a networked world. Discussions surfaced 163 leadership behaviors that were not currently recognized as needed, and were not being learned or actively practiced amongst federal health leaders. These were distilled into the diagram of 12 competencies above.


Our priority at PCI is to work with our partners to set up networks of improvement communities so we can all achieve our overarching goals together, and to use our technological tools to augment our human capabilities to work together better. The UN Sustainable Development Goals provide the set of overarching goals that tie 192l countries and stakeholders together. Coordinating and collaborating to achieve these provides clear direction to technology companies, digital inclusion proponents, actors and change agents to look for shared Sustainable Development Goals in common.

  • What does success look like in the foreseeable future (say 3-5 years) for you?  What are some examples of things that you will have accomplished or things that will be different?

In 3-5 years, we will have a few pilot networked improvement communities – in a country, across agencies, across countries. We will have a community-centered approach to health – where we see the health of an individual as intimately connected to the health of their family and their community. We will have a cross cultural approach to education where diversity of viewpoints is essential in helping young people learn how to operate in a networked world – to tap the wisdom of others as part of realizing their dreams, and working out how to bring dreams together to create something bigger than anyone individual can do alone.