Yesterday I started to expand out some of the ideas around Curation in Social Leadership. I discussed how Social Leadership is a style of leadership suited to the Social Age: it’s contextual and consensual and founded within our communities. I introduced four aspects of curation: ‘values’, ‘content’, ‘voice’, and ‘pace’. In yesterday’s article, I explored values and content in more detail: when we choose a space for our reputation, we must consider our values, the stance that we take, the ways that we co-create culture, how we earn trust, and how this affects our actions. I also looked at ‘content’, the more traditional notion of curation, considering how we choose the type and quality of content that we will share, and the ways that we interpret it to be both relevant and timely in the shape of stories that we tell. Today I want to consider the other two aspects: the way that we find a ‘voice’, and our ‘pace’.
We considered how the values that we exhibit (rather than the values we aspire to) are a conscious choice expressed through our actions every day. Similarly the stories that we tell, the content that we curate, are conscious choices. In much the same way the voice that we choose is a conscious choice, a choice over which we can exert significant control.
There are many aspects that we need to consider, such as the tone that we use: will this be formal or social? Will you be speaking from a position of authority within a formal system, or as an equal within a social system? Will you be speaking as a subject matter expert, or somebody helping in the sense making process, or possibly a storyteller, or possible all three? Within curation, the tone of voice that we choose in any given situation impacts on the type of story that we tell, and the way that those stories will be received. Some stories warrant a formal tone of voice, whilst others a more social one, but we should bear in mind that the tone that we use may dictate how the story is received.
When considering voice, we should also consider our temperament: how will we respond in any situation? Will we leave this to chance, to randomness, or history, or will we actively take control of it in service of building a Social Reputation and, hence, Social Authority? Temperament can be expressed both in the tone of voice that we use, the stance that we take in a response, but also in the way that we support our arguments. For example, do we always try to bring in supporting evidence, or always link people to others who may be able to support them? Again, this can be a conscious choice, and can explicitly relate to the strength of reputation that we build.
The accessibility of the tone of voice that we choose is also within our control: the more jargon that we use, the more specialist language, the more it may tie into particular communities, whilst also excluding certain people from the conversation. Both these things may have value: sometimes we need to use specialist language as a shibboleth of our belonging within the community, but sometimes those very shibboleths exclude people. We should be mindful of which effect we are having.
The authenticity of our voice is something that cannot be cheated but has to be earned, or something that we have earned through experience. Authenticity is about lived experience and an innate honesty in a tone of voice and conversations. Authenticity is highly significant: when we hear stories, we use the authenticity to judge how seriously we should take the story. Organisations using formal voices often have low authenticity, whilst individuals, with high authenticity, may find that their stories are amplified and spread.
Finally, let us consider pace, the pace of our interactions with communities, the pace with which we share our stories and respond to the comments and interactions that others have with them. Pace itself can be a conscious choice, and in the case of pace, fastest is not always best.
For all of their benefits, social communities can end up being significant draws upon our time and resource: this needs to be managed in line with all other priorities. It’s the synchronous nature of conversations in social spaces which can make them both relevant and timely, but the very synchronicity can be at odds with our concentration in other areas. So we have to make a decision: as we curate space, we can choose how synchronous we wish to be in our interaction.
The tempo of our interaction is also important: better to have a lower tempo but a regular one, than erratic periods of engagement followed by long periods of silence. Social spaces favour a strong but constant pace. The reward is earned over time, and so the effort has to be put in over time.
Finally, how will we engage? For example, around this blog and my other social spaces, I try to live to a value of responding to every comment, and to do so constructively. It may be simply a case of thanking people for passing by and sharing their thoughts, or it may be about sharing additional information, or learning from the wisdom of others, but the principle is that I always try to engage.
We don’t always have to do this, but we may as well make it a conscious choice, as it directly impacts on our ability to build community and to earn reputation. Engagement is also something significantly affected by tone of voice and the authenticity of how we respond. If I get an automated response on Twitter, I view that with low authenticity, and whilst it may not actively degrade the reputation of the individual, it certainly does not enhance it. Authentic engagement, by contrast, can significantly build reputation. It shows that you are truly engaged in the conversation, and, if we engage with the humility that Social Leadership requires, it shows that we are willing to learn.
So there we have four aspects that, together, make up Curation in Social Leadership. Curation is the foundation for everything else, it’s where we choose our space, build our reputation, and are able to act from in the future. The values that we hold here cannot be aspirational, they have to be lived. We have to choose our stance, act with integrity, earn trust, and co-create the culture that we deserve through the actions that we take. We must choose the area in which we are going to share content, curate material of a suitable quality, and an accessible type, unique, timely, and relevant, and interpret it for the audience that we wish to share it with. The stories that we craft should be shared with wisdom, not just volume.
As we share those stories, we must choose the right tone of voice, the correct level of formality, we should use language which is accessible where accessibility is relevant, or which employs relevant shibboleths where exclusivity is required. But these should be active choices, not accidental arrogance of membership of an exclusive community. If we find the right tone and temperament, and we act with humility, we will be taken as authentic, and with that authentic tone of voice, our stories may be amplified and heard more widely.
The pace with which we engage is under our control: it needs to be sustainable but also synchronous enough to be relevant in the moment. The sense making of our Social Age communities relies on them being accessible at speed. We must find a tempo to our actions, one which is both sustainable and yet still relevant day-to-day. If we get all of this right people will engage with our ideas, if we get all of this right, we will build reputation, and hence Social Authority.
This piece is one of a series that I’m writing exploring the nine components of Social Leadership, timed to coincide with the release of the second edition of the Social Leadership Handbook. The handbook itself is in three main sections: first, the foundations of the Social Age, secondly, a detailed tour through the nine core skills of the NET model, and finally, stories of application. You can order the Social Leadership Handbook here.
A unique property of writing in the Social Age, is that ideas are ever evolving, so the writing that I do now, to share the second edition of the book, will directly contribute to a third edition when it finally surfaces. Painful as that is, it’s as it should be: in the Social Age knowledge itself is adaptive, co-created, and dynamic. A core skill we need is the ability to curate content, but also to evolve our views over time.