The NET model of social leadership defines a style of leadership which is suitable for the Social Age. It’s a style that reflects the changing nature of authority and leadership as formal hierarchies of power crumble and as people expect a different social contract. It reflects the changing nature of work and the ways that we use and engage in communities in every aspect of our lives. It reflects the fact that change is the new constant and only those people and organisations are agile will survive and thrive.
I lent Sam my copy of Business Model Generation last week. It’s a great book, really useful in getting your thoughts straight in the early stages of planning, so i wanted to share it with him as he is working on business strategy right now.
Cath showed me a video on YouTube last night: Caravan of Thieves, a band she saw in America when she was playing at a festival earlier this month. She thought i’d like to see them next year as i’m planning some US work and may be able to coincide the two.
There’s a common theme: both Cath and I saw something, thought it was good, and shared it with accordingly. We both put a context around what we shared. We both used an appropriate channel to share it in, and it was timely. When we chose what to share, we were aware that our reputation was at stake: share a long and tedious book, or a song that i hate, and my view of your taste suffers.
Setting appropriate Context, choosing the right Channel and making our shares Timely are three skills within Sharing.
What are we going to share? In the Social Age, the question is more ‘what are we going to hide?‘. We share ideas, articles, books, music, we share our time, our feedback, encouragement and support. We Share things that make us laugh or make us better. We find the meaning in things and situations and share that too. Sharing is a key skill of Social Leaders because it contributes to reputation, and reputation drives authority. Reputation is what makes us ultimately effective.
Finding Context is about identifying where the meaning sits for someone else. What’s relevant to me today may be of no interest to you in your current context (but may be highly relevant tomorrow, in your next). To define Context, we have to know people: not just their LinkedIn profile and homepage on a corporate intranet, but know them through interaction, through listening and experiencing their reality. Sharing may sound altruistic, but it draws us closer together.
Our Contexts are defined by our everyday reality, by the pressures that surround us and the reward mechanisms that pay us, but also by our history and stance: our ethical perspectives and social values. You can’t set a Context effectively without empathy and understanding. Old school advertising approaches that work on target audiences are outdated here: we are sharing to individuals, to create personal meaning, not mass audiences. Reputation is built incrementally through this, permeating through the nodes and amplifiers within networks, like the President kissing babies as he heads through the states.
Choosing the Channel to share through is an important decision, impacted by considerations of time, convenience, cost, impact and shared value. Some channels have imbued value: books carry gravitas, LinkedIn is related to businesses and job search, Facebook is more social. These vary by individual (another reason to understand someone’s everyday reality). There’s no point in me trying to share something with Benoit through Dropbox, because within his corporate reality, it’s impossible to access.
Different channels also have different impact: giving someone a book is a tactile as well as emotionally engaging experience. But if we are talking to busy people, if our team is under pressure, a book may not be very useful: perhaps a link to an article (or even a book review) is more relevant. There’s also something to consider about what we are sharing and how suitable each channel is for the format and subject matter: reading text on mobiles is tedious, watching videos takes bandwidth, performance support materials should be concise and clear, easy to digest in seconds, not hours.
And don’t forget the time: shares can be time critical for different reasons. Sometimes the knowledge expires: telling someone about an event or meeting for example. Sometimes knowledge or shares decay over time: an article may date over a year or two, especially if it relates to technology! Sometimes the timeliness relates to the individual we are sharing with: they may be searching for a new job or facing a specific challenge. Indeed, perceptive social leaders will aim to share relevant material within an appropriate context to support people at exactly these times.
Sharing may be about sharing our time: this is where we are sharing our thoughts or ideas and, again, the timing of this may be valuable for us (as we refine and iterate our ideas through our communities, much as i’m doing right now in this first draft) and for whoever we share with (where we may trigger thoughts for them too). Sharing is very much a co-creative experience.