I like to share chapters when i’m working on a book, #WorkingOutLoud as i go. Below is the introduction to the Second Edition of the Social Leadership Handbook. The main model remains the same, but i’ve greatly expanded the third section, bringing in key writing from the last two years on humility in leadership, fairness and equality, and the context of the Social Age.
Here we go again. It’s a daunting thing, revisiting a book. In the old world, books represented collected, codified and fossilised knowledge. We wrote them, then we shared them. In the Social Age, they are just snapshots of what we thought at the time. What we think now resides in different spaces: on Twitter, in our stories, for me, on the blog. Knowledge itself has changed, becoming more dynamic, adaptive, responsive and evolutionary. And, in response, books must change too. Retaining their core, but evolving their story.
At it’s heart, this is a guide to developing Social Leadership, for individuals and within organisations. Why? Because what we have is not enough. In the formal world, governed by hierarchies of power and control, positional authority was assured. But in the Social Age, both formal and social spaces have converged, collided to form a new space. A grey space. A space not governed by old rules, possibly not governed by any rules that we have yet deduced.
Formal authority can never subvert social: it can drive conversations out of earshot, but it never kills them. Formal authority will only get us so far: for the rest of the journey, we need Social Leadership.
The heart of this book remains the model of Social Leadership: the nine components that form an image of and development pathway towards a more social and responsible way of leading.
Around it, my thinking continues to evolve: my language, as i rehearse and prototype it, becomes stronger, more coherent, more relevant i hope, especially because, as i write today, i’ve been fortunate enough to see this work embedded into practical application. In a number of organisations around the world, the principles of Social Leadership are being shared, adapted and refined.
Our world is imperfect.
Through the actions of organisations, governments and individuals, abusing and consolidating power, seeking profit over humanity, exploitation over empowerment, we exist in fractured cultures.
The actions of organisations fractured the Social Contract: the notions of ‘career’ and even ‘work’ or ‘jobs’ are gone, replaced by portfolio lives lived out in multiple communities. We may inhabit organisations with our bodies, but our minds are our own.
If an organisation wishes to be dynamic, to survive, to thrive, it needs to engage the best people in the best ways. Social Leadership is part of that: creating a culture that is fairer, more equal, more kind, more effective and better performing.
I have spent the last two years working in organisations around the world, sharing this story: in banks and governments, military and 3rd sector, manufacturing and oil, education and art. One thing is absolutely clear: we only have today to set the foundations for tomorrow. Ignoring, dismissing or belittling the challenges we face is a route to failure. What got us here won’t get us the rest of the journey.
Social Leadership is authentic, grounded and free to anyone to develop, adapt and share. The starting point is ‘how can i help you to succeed’, not ‘how can i get you to do…’.
Humility sits at the heart of it: the humble leader, who is willing to learn, to share, to empower, to fight. Because sometimes we must fight: for equality, for fairness, for what is right, whatever the cost.
I deeply hope that you enjoy this book, that you find it both infuriating and challenging. I invite you to join the global community of thought that surrounds it, on the blog and in other online spaces. To learn is not to hear my story, it’s to find your own. Take this, make it work, make it real, and help me learn what i need to learn when it comes time to rewrite it for the third edition.