Chaos. We are all dealing with some level of perpetual and unpredictable chaos— in our societal, personal and professional lives. For those of us working in emerging technological fields that are pushing the regulatory and monetary boundaries on policies that society has lived by for centuries, the chaos has multiple layers we can not predict or strategize our ways out of.
That means that we must, as builders of such transformational infrastructure, embrace a new form of leadership. We can not continue to force trad systems into emergent frameworks within our organizations. We have to turn to regenerative systems to find our own way to lead.
I’ve worked as a professional comms and community builder in the web3 ecosystem since 2017 and I’ve seen so many ebbs and flows for this emergent technological movement. There’s a current trend I’ve noticed across the ecosystem itself that is both hopeful and a little worrying at the same time.
We talk often about mass adoption of our technology for the end user— how will technological advances like account abstraction help us reach the tipping point of adoption for the masses. And I am here for it. We all became the “product” under the web2 business model and we, in web3, are here to change this reality. For the love of all things Holy, can we get our tech to the point where my 73 year old mother can use MetaMask as easily as Venmo already?
But one thing we do not talk about openly is what mass adoption of our technology looks like from the inside. Let’s face it, there only so many of us degens turned regens who know our technology and the communities that deploy it deeply and to its core. Our tech and the builders who deploy it communicate and connect in ways far beyond anything the trad marketing and organizational worlds have ever seen.
Our web3 ecosystems are allergic to so many elements of the old world. Let’s explore several core trad elements that need some readjustment to support the new world we’re all building. There are some core concepts from the trad world that serve our emergent technology well and I’m not suggesting we ignore the advancements that made web3 possible. I am asking us all to take a hard look and check our belief systems though. With an open mind, we can ensure our unstoppable technological movement supports the communities that need our tech most and we can do this with the support of web2 methodologies rather have those techniques destroy what we’ve been fighting so hard to build.
Traditional marketing is a powerful element trying to wedge itself into our web3 ecosystems. As someone who became an accidental marketer (journalist needing to pay the bills as the media industry slowly died) I have strong opinions and insights on this one. The extractive, exploitative and broadcast styles of marketing are the reason many of us left the web2 world all together. I became appalled watching trad social media morph into the servant of politicians and corporations. I became so fed up with the violations and exploitations of trad marketing that I shut down my tiny marketing business, dove headfirst into web3 and never looked back.
The beauty of web3 is that trad marketing doesn’t apply to our ecosystem. If one is trying to reach end users for mass adoption, there may be some trad marketing methodologies that still work, but they are shifting fast and are mostly a waste of money. What makes that beautiful is the actual “marketing” process that does work is simple— value-based, community-driven marketing. Building healthy, safe and thriving communities where people gather to learn, share and build together is the ONLY true effective way to grow and share the message of a protocol, project or brand. Period, end of story.
Web3 builders can smell a corporate agenda or an extractive marketing technique a mile away and they will not, WILL NOT, be shilled to, farmed or exploited. The minute they sniff a whiff of this approach, builders will leave and never return. Let me repeat that last part for the marketers in the back row— once a community catches wind of an agenda that is exploitative or not in alignment of what’s best for the builder, they will leave your project/company/protocol and never return.
The beauty of how we market in web3 is that its also in alignment with our true human nature. To be of service to others and connect with our humanity. That’s what lies at the core of regenerative leadership and is the BEST methodology for building a brand, protocol or project that will reach a large audience and make a project successful. Our most powerful technology in web3 started as a group of builders seeking a solution, creating community and changing the way we do things; Mirror, Farcaster, Unlock and MetaMask are just a few examples. Builders saw a problem and formed a community to build and organize around a solution.
The top down, hierarchical leadership of the recent past has NO PLACE in web3. Period, end of discussion. Just like in the early 80s when computers emerged out of Silicon Valley from a gaggle of rebellious computer scientists, web3 thrives in rebellion and emergent thought patterns— where thinking beyond what’s possible is the norm, not the exception. Encouraging your teams to embrace what hasn’t even been invented yet or that 95% of the population will need a decade to understand and embrace takes a special type of leadership. A style and philosophy that empowers teams to explore and gives them the safety to fail and try again.
Trad leadership methodologies that were championed in the 80s and 90s and deployed at scale in the dot com boom and web2 peak do not apply to web3. Of course there are some elements of past technological movements, including web2, that we should explore and adjust to fit in our web3 world. Beautiful things were built with web2 mentalities and technologies, until the tsunami of commodification turned us all into the product to serve a handful of shareholders. We are now all living within communities that are so polarized and mired in the separation caused by unfettered social media and weaponized algorithms that we no longer function within community. And that was by design.
I am seeing a trend across our industry where web2 is entering our organizations— DAOs, orgs, foundations and corporations— at scale and trying to force trad leadership into ecosystems of humans who literally chose this path in defiance of trad methodologies. We do not want to be led by force or have power concentrated in organizational silos that we can not see, touch, feel or trust. We created entire technological infrastructure to provide solutions for this very problem. We spend our time experimenting with decentralized governance, regenerative leadership methodologies and voting mechanisms for decision making that gives everyone in an organization the power and voice to make change.
We don’t believe in concentrated power or information silos. We don’t believe that decisions should be made without everyone having a say. We don’t believe in paperwork for the sake of itself, for bureaucracy and excessive meetings that allow managers and leaders to feel that progress is being made, when in fact, we’re moving backwards and buried in ineffective workflows. We believe in none of that, which is why we embrace web3.
How are we supposed to then enter organizational structures trying to deploy trad methodologies of leadership and communication when we, the builders of web3, are literally wired for the opposite?
As we hit mass adoption of our tech, this “clash of civilizations” within our orgs will reach a tipping point. Web3 natives are simply too small in numbers and we are now at the heart of many organizational structures throughout our ecosystem. Our challenge is to welcome the those harboring trad methodologies and allow them to see and understand that our way is different, yet necessary for the health of our entire ecosystem and how we move this technology forward towards mass adoption for the end user. We are here to teach the end users AND our colleagues the methods we use— and WHY we use them.
And along those same lines, a responsibility falls upon those who spent careers building in the web2, trad technological worlds to enter our space with an open mind and remember that the people in your charge, those who are web3 native, are not here for those trad methodologies. Yes, there’s always some techniques or principles from trad worlds that are applicable and can serve our web3 ecosystem well. We welcome those conversations. But if leaders in web3 orgs enter our systems and force trad methodologies into place, there will be friction. And if force continues to push those trad methods forward, that friction will cause a fire that will burn down elements of our emergent system.
The responsibility to learn and embrace web3 methods falls upon the leaders who enter our ecosystem from other systems and we web3 natives share that same responsibility in providing an open door for learning and teaching the WHY behind what we do. Enter our ecosystem with an open mind and a willingness to learn, ask questions and be wrong. I promise that the humans building this ecosystem are here to support you and your learning process. It brings me tremendous joy when my colleagues, friends, and particularly those at the top of organizational structures, ask me to help them better understand a theory of concept in web3 and do so BEFORE deploying a trad methodology.
We all share responsibility in protecting our ecosystem from the past and preparing for the future. Our conversation begins with how and why we lead. Regenerative Leadership also requires those who deploy this method to have a deep level of self awareness and be in tune with the ecosystems they function within.
Kindness, empathy and compassion are core elements of regenerative leadership that can not be overlooked. As stewards and leaders in this space, we must also protect the well being, rights and desires of the builders deploying our tech on a daily basis. We must ensure that we give them the tools, support and community necessary to build the mechanisms that will replace the systemic failures baked into our existing infrastructure.
We’re creating technological advances that will power the future of our communications, finance, governance and more and to do so effectively will require emergent strategies and innovative, compassionate leadership. And it starts now.