A Guide to Developing Social Leadership

The Social Leadership HandbookFormal authority is bestowed by the organisation: codified in position within a hierarchy. It’s the power and influence of last resort, backed up by “because i told you so“. Social authority, by contrast, is granted by the community, founded upon reputation forged through action. It’s consensual and contextual: you may have high social authority in one situation and next to none in another. The heart of the Social Leadership model lies in an understanding that, to be effective in the Social Age, you need both formal and social authority, and that organisations, up until now, have focussed almost exclusively on the former.

Why the change? Because our ecosystem has evolved: everything has changed. Indeed, everything will continue to change as the Social Age is defined by constant change. That’s a lot of change: which is why we need agility: the ability to do things differently each time, with the support and momentum of our communities behind us.

The NET Model - two layers

The NET Model of Social Leadership in full, showing the three Dimensions and nine Components

The agile organisation is one which is engaged both socially and formally, to it’s internal and external communities. Internally, it’s about creating the permissions and spaces to connect, to co-create and to be effective. Externally it’s about being engaged with out communities, because today the power of our brand is held by the community. It’s not shaped by the marketing team and exported, but rather co-created by conversations within the community.

The NET Model of Social Leadership covers nine core skills and abilities. It’s a development pathway and an idea. It starts with ‘Narrative‘, which is really about taking a stance and being an effective communicator. Then it moves through to ‘Engagement‘, which is about communities, reputation and authority, understanding how we build our authority based upon our actions at different times in different communities. Finally it ends up at ‘Technology‘, which is really about social collaboration: it looks at the co-creative processes at work in our communities, seeking to understand how they work, as well as social capital (our duty to safeguard, promote equality and to be fair) and ends up at collaboration, looking at how we can be at our most effective.

Social Leadership is not just for formal leaders: it’s for everyone, because it’s a non hierarchical form of authority which is built over time. There is a good argument for including it from induction onwards, because by it’s nature, you don’t need to be in the organisation twenty five years to have it. Social authority subverts formal hierarchy through it’s ability to connect to and mobilise communities.

This subversive power is important to understand: it can be a powerful force for change and, indeed, i use a co-created and co-owned model of change with organisations that relies on building change communities that can subvert inertia.

The Social Leadership Handbook Introduction PageI’ve structured the Social Leadership Handbook as a guide to understanding what Social Leadership is and a practical path to developing the capability in teams. It’s in three sections: in the first we explore the ‘Foundations of the Social Age, looking in detail at how our ecosystem has changed and what we need to do about it. In the second section we take a detailed tour around the NET model, looking at each of the nine components in turn, then finally the third section looks at application.

You can buy the Social Leadership Handbook HERE in Hardback or digital formats.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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24 Responses to A Guide to Developing Social Leadership

  1. David says:

    I am engaged in reading three books right now about how western culture has gotten to where it is from where it has been. As these authors trace the path from Greece to the present they all see the Christian community playing a key role. Although the church became and still is in many ways a hierarchical institution, these writers are making the case that the early church was not so much a hierarchical institutions as much as it was a community that became subversive to the reigning political power. Not subversive in a rebel way, but in a way that changed the way people thought and therefore the whole landscape. In my mind I am working to make the connections between what you write about, the history of the west, and the path forward. It seems like the social age was birthed in the west, but is that true? If it is true, why did it develop in the west? What are the foundations that have allowed the social age to develop and begin to move us away from the hierarchical ways of thinking? I don’t expect you to have all the answers, but these are the questions your blogs raise in my mind.

    • julianstodd says:

      Interesting thoughts – i certainly see it as a global Social Age, but increasingly have been interested in the tensions this creates: as technology brings us closer together, the ethical, moral and legal differences we hold in our communities just come to the fore. For example, the status of women and the legalicy of homosexuality are two divisive areas. I think that much of the movement has driven from the West, partly from the prevalence of the collaborative technology, partly from the cultural view of ‘self’ versus community and, in particular, the freedom to be different, to stand out. But it’s a complex picture. I see the end result being global.

      As ever, thanks for participating in the conversation 🙂

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  3. Leonor says:

    I agree, leadership needs to change. It will also need to see the role differently. As Agile leaders, they will need to learn how to grow people. Like the post.

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