Another #WorkingOutLoud post today for two reasons: firstly, i’m finishing up the 2nd Edition of the Social Leadership Handbook, so value sharing my thinking as i go, and secondly because i’ve spend the day in a workshop with a very dynamic group, exploring how we create the conditions for success around Social Learning communities. As i relax with a cup of tea, watching the sun set over the Dublin skyline, i’m reflecting on what I’ve learnt.
In the Social Age, we inhabit a range of communities, from the fully formal, defined by the organisation, to the fully social, created by us and invisible to any formal authority. In between are a myriad spaces, each serving different purposes, each governed by different rules (some that we own, some that are imposed), each creating different types of story and sharing it in different spaces.
The role of the Social Leader is to help others to succeed: through humility, kindness, a drive for equality and fairness, to facilitate, to empower and enable, to share, to create and grant permission, to nurture and support.
If that sounds like a list of aspirations, then we need to do more: in the old world, we governed with raw power. In the new world, we govern through consensus and permission, recognising that if that permission is not granted, it will be claimed.
Many organisation are inherently unfit for the Social Age: they are well intentioned, but ultimately a product of a bygone age. They are mechanisms of control in a world that does not respect that model of authority. The challenge they face: to become facilitating in every aspect of what they do. To enable people to succeed.
Social Leadership is a multi dimensional model: at times, the role of a leader is to bring new knowledge to a community, to enlighten and surprise. At times it’s to support, to help others to develop high Social Capital and capability. At times, the role of the leader is to learn. Or to give generously. To share.
Social Leadership is founded upon respect, a respect that is earned, not assumed, because no organisation can bestow respect. It’s about the offer to help others succeed with no expectation of reciprocity in the moment. It’s leadership that is invested in the community, recognising that, over time, we will reap the benefits of being surrounded by and supported by our community.
Today the group tended to fall into the processes and mechanisms that would drive success: understandable, but important to recognise that the things we think hard about to generate the success may well be the things that block it.
The organisation, the formal leadership, can create the conditions for success, but cannot bestow success. Any true social community needs to co-own and co-create it’s space, it’s permissions, it’s rules. Why? Because Social Learning is about the semi formal, community moderated learning that surround the formal. So if we seek to maintain too much control, if we try to shape the story too far, it simply becomes a formal story and we drive out the very thing that we seek to experience.
The skills we needed yesterday may still be relevant, but are supplemented by a whole new capability.
In the Social Age, knowledge itself has change, away from the Age of Concentration, when we held it in books and knowledge management systems, towards a time when it’s co-created, dynamic, adaptive and evolutionary, held in Wikis, in communities, and accessed, usually through technology, at the moment we need it.
An organisation simply cannot hope to maintain a grasp on all the knowledge it needs to thrive: so stop trying. Abandon control, embrace facilitation. Form, guide and nurture the communities that will take us towards agility. Create the conditions for success: that, surely, is the primary role of a Social Leader.