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February 11, 2021 Thursday 11:28:43 AM IST

Leadership in Gig Economy

Leadership Instincts

Our workplaces are quickly expanding and evolving. As usual 9-to-5 work changes to freelance and part time work, we find ourselves in the Gig Economy. Experts have defined gig economy as a labour market driven mainly by short-term contracts or freelance work in contrast to permanent jobs. Gig workers are those who opt for small jobs, normally referred to as ‘gigs’, instead of a full-time job and are paid for the amount of ‘gigs’ they undertake. Gig economy is upending the way people work just as the Uber driver or the Airbnb host. Intuit predicts that by 2020, 43% of the U.S. workforce will be freelance.  In the United Kingdom, the ‘gig economy’ has grown by 70% since 2010 in London alone. Indian labour market is gradually moving towards gig economy, with more workers looking for freelancing opportunities.The idea of gig sounds great. You set your own hours, you're your own boss, and you don't necessarily have to give up your day job.

What do Uber drivers, Airbnb and TaskRabbits have in common? They're all part of the gig economy.


Uber Technologies Inc. is a global transportation technology firm functioning in 635 cities worldwide. The success of Uber has convinced many experts, economists, and policymakers that freelancing via digital platforms is becoming increasingly important to Americans’ livelihood. The company has also endorsed the idea that new technology—mainly the explosion of platforms facilitating the gig economy—will necessarily change the future of work. Drivers enjoy the association with Uber primarily for its work flexibility, and lots of drivers are opting to work for Uber. In 2019 alone, Uber had 1.2 million active drivers on the platform worldwide and there were more than 400,000 active drivers taking at least four trips a month in US alone. The figures prove how attractive this type of work is to people around the country. It is an accepted fact that a growing number of individuals are involving in flexible and freelance work because of the sharing economy or through on-demand platforms. Airbnb

Airbnb is a website that permits individuals to rent out their spare rooms, apartments, or even entire houses to travellers looking for an alternative to a hotel. The full form of Airbnb is ‘Air, bed, and breakfast’ and it is a haven for all travellers who are searching for a bed and breakfast spaces when they travel away from their home country or city. The universality of Wi-Fi and smartphone apps now permits people to sell commodities like spare rooms or transportation that formerly were demoted to licensed professionals. For some, Airbnb and the ride-sharing service Uber are moonlighting assignments that complement more-conventional incomes. For others, these new Do It Yourself (DIY) services are full-time gigs. Airbnb offers a neutral interface for handling monetary exchanges, but the actual provision of goods and services to the tenants is completely up to the hosts.


TaskRabbit is an online and mobile marketplace that strikes a balance between freelance labour with local demand, permitting users to find instantassistance with everyday tasks, including cleaning, moving, delivery and handyman work. Established in 2008 by Leah Busque, the organization has received $37.8 million in funding to date and presently has tens of thousands of scrutinized, background-checked "Taskers" open to help users across a wide variety of categories. So what’s in it for the thirty thousand odd individuals who’ve signed up to be Taskers? A flexible workday is the most attractive feature of the job. According to a recent study, 65% of Taskers come to the platform wanting to be in control of their own schedules. Taskers have the complete liberty to set their own rates and those who fully commit to the platform, approximately 15% to 20% of them, can earn a handsome amount on a monthly basis.

Leadership Challenges

While each company will integrate gig economy in manifold ways, the reality is that this is a substantially new terrain that leaders need to master, regardless of whether the reasoning is concentrated on operating model, risk management or partner efficiency. There are two crucial decisive factors here.Primarily, leaders who spearhead the organizations need to be better equipped at taking strategic choices around in which organisational boundaries need to be identified and which need to be fluid, and also more primed to shift this over time as situations change. A classic illustration of this would be detecting what part of an IT employee-base needs to be out-sourced versus kept in-house. Leaders need to become more open to let go of formerly effective paradigms that have run their course.

Secondly, leaders need to take a more broadly all-encompassing approach to coordinating and encouraging across boundaries. They need to be able to reach out to wider audience in order to create collective meaning and purpose and draw out discretionary effort. They need to guarantee that the right technology, structures and procedures are in place to make it comfortable for third-parties to plug into their firms.They also need to cultivate a culture which backs the operating model, rather than challenges it. Crucial to this is having a ‘breadth of perspective’, being able to strike a balance between the high-level systemic understanding and the felt experience of the person, as well as an ‘interpersonal range’, genuinelyamending communication style to fit a specific audience.

As with every swing in a strategic setting, there will be winners and losers. The winners will be the leaders who take a vibrant understanding on what is essential and non-essential, who see the brighter side of utilizing third-party workers, and who build a shared sense of identity and purpose in a more distributed constituency base. The losers will be the ones who assumed that this is applicable only to Über,Taskrabbit or Airbnb and was not something they required to get their own heads and hearts around.

Dr. Manu Melwin Joy

The writer is an Assistant Professor at School of Management Studies, CUSAT

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