I’m writing all this week on Social Leadership with a view to publishing a Handbook very soon: this will cover the foundations of Social Leadership and explain the NET Model. As i’m focusing on that writing (and as this has become something of a tradition), i’m sharing extracts as i write. Today, the introduction and part of first chapter: please view this as an early draft, not even proofed yet. Working in Harold’s constant beta and John’s #WorkingOutLoud, i can get away with this…
This is a book about Social Leadership: a style of leadership that bridges the gap between the formal organisational space and semi formal social ones. It’s not an alternative to other leadership styles, it’s complimentary. And it’s essential for any individual or organisation that wants to remain agile, to remain relevant in the Social Age.
Consider this a first draft: i’ve been developing the ideas here over the last year as part of a wider exploration of the ecosystem of the Social Age, a time when change is constant and the very nature of work is evolving.
In the first part of this book, i’m going to explore the foundations for Social Leadership. This involves defining the Social Age, looking at the concept of Socially Collaborative Technology and understanding how Social Leadership is based within communities and the reputation that they support. We will explore how social styles subvert more formal leadership approaches and why Social Leadership is contextual and based on humility.
The second half of the book is an exploration of the NET Model in detail: this is a structured curriculum based around three dimensions and nine separate skills that social leaders need to develop to be truly effective.
The Social Age
I use the term ‘The Social Age’ to talk about the environment we inhabit today: it’s a time when the very nature of work is evolving, changing to reflect a revised social contract and the advancement of technology to facilitate sharing and community.
In the Manufacturing Age, we used to make stuff: banging together lumps of iron, burning coal, wrestling value from the very earth itself as we wrought iron and carved railways through the landscape, smelting and creating, until we outsourced it all and specialised production in a global network of trade and exchange, bringing us to the Knowledge Age. We convinced ourselves that this was ok: we no longer made stuff, but we had the knowledge, we did the clever bit ourselves and the knowledge was what really mattered.
But then the internet evolved and Google was born, phones got smart and small and our relationship with knowledge changed. Finding stuff out is easy. Making sense of it is what counts. Welcome to the Social Age.
Power and authority, that used to be gained through knowledge alone, is now based more in effectiveness, in being able to create value and meaning through the effective use of knowledge and resources in agile ways. Simply knowing stuff is not enough. Business models used to be based on hiding knowledge away, portioning it out behind paywalls and gateways, compartmentalising it, hiding it in books and charging for access, until free became the new way to add value and sharing became the differentiating behaviour. Why? Because the value of knowledge alone is driving down to zero.
I recently gave a guest lecture at Dublin City University for the Masters course on ‘Creating effective learning in the Social Age‘. It was a broad presentation, starting with how we communicate using stories, progressing to an exploration of a methodology for learning, journeying through mobile technology and social learning and ending up with some pragmatic steps for creating effective learning solutions.
The questions from the group were many and varied, reinforcing for me the value in taking time out to just think about how we communicate, how we learn. The thought that carried me through was that here we are, in the Social Age, even though many organisations haven’t realised it yet.
As i heard stories of sectors trying to control and reject semi formal learning, trying to restrict technology, trying to own the conversation, it made me realise just how far behind the times they are. Whilst, on the one had, we see traditionally conservative industries such as Finance or Healthcare starting to experiment in pockets with innovative social learning approaches, there are, still, many bastions of resistance, who fail to see that the walls are crumbling around them.
We are not at the dawn of the Social Age: we are here and we’re kicking down the walls that surround us.
The Social Age is about high levels of engagement through informal, socially collaborative technology. It supports agility by allowing many and varied connections and the rapid iteration of ideas in communities that are ‘sense making’.
The notion of ‘sense making’ is worth exploring further: it’s about how communities iterate ideas, each member bringing their own perspective and interpretation and, collectively, find the meaning. A large part of the power of the Social Age comes through the way that we operate within and alongside multiple communities, each of which may specialise or be generalist, but all contributing to this collective sense making capacity. Our communities literally make us more effective than we can ever be in isolation.