Things that used to be clear are changing: the world evolves, leaving us with uncertainty and doubt. The Social Age is characterised by an evolving relationship with work, where careers are made up of many jobs and for some of them you won’t even be in an office. The one constant is the communities that we inhabit: formal communities around projects, skills and organisations as well as informal, social ones that permeate our lives. It’s within and alongside these communities that we make sense of the world, that we learn. In this new reality, the mechanisms of leadership need to change too.
The Social Age requires Social Leaders. Leaders who are able to derive authority in these communities, but these spaces work by different rules. Social Authority is founded upon reputation, it’s based in our curation, storytelling and sharing skills. Hierarchical authority, that which is based on positional power and control is subverted by social authority, grounded within communities.
To lead effectively today, our formal authority needs to be supplemented by social. Effective leadership is about bridging the gap, about leading with humility and compassion and serving the needs of the community as well as the organisation that hosts it.
Often facilitated by technology, we are seeing social learning approaches making progress in many organisations, from the informal communities of interest around specific topics through to the forums and spaces that are increasingly incorporated into learning design, but the technology itself is not the answer. Many of these spaces lie derelict, unloved, disengaged. Engagement is a core skill for Social Leaders: understanding how to form, guide and narrate the activities of the communities that they inhabit.
Organisations that manage to cultivate strong Social Leaders, who manage to drive high engagement in social learning spaces, are able to be more agile, more responsive, more authentic.
How does your organisation use communities? Where does the knowledge reside and how is it accessed? In the Social Age, knowledge itself is of limited value: it’s the meaning we create with it that counts, and that meaning is co-created, grounded in our communities. Social Leaders develop others, draw them along, support them in this process, ensuring nobody is left behind.
In a time of constant change, agility is key. At the organisational level, this agility is what lets us innovate. For the individual, it’s about creating meaning and sharing it widely, to be effective.
Alongside formal leadership, we need Social Leaders.
I’m launching my Social Leadership Handbook and speaking at Learning Live, which is taking place in London on 10-11 September. The book illustrates a nine step curriculum for the development of Social Leaders, looking at how they built narratives, drive engagement and use technology to do that. It’s about how they become effective collaborators, great social leaders.
© Julian Stodd 2014
Join us to discuss and share ideas on Thursday, 4 September for #chat2lrn at 8am PDT, 11am EDT, 4pm BST.