The Role and Responsibilities of Leadership in the Social Age

The role of a leader is not to hold the map.

Nor is it necessarily to guide the way or plan the journey.

In the context of the Social Age it may be that we have to evolve our language away from a role, and into a responsibility: a responsibility with multiple facets.

We hold a responsibility to ourselves: to our family and friends, and into our local community.

We hold a responsibility into our teams, our peers and colleagues, as well as our professional communities.

We hold a responsibility into the Organisation itself, as an idea and entity of belief.

We hold a responsibility into broader society, a global culture, and to future generations.

We hold a responsibility to the world: to the environment, and to the collective good of humanity.

Indeed, it may seem as if we are making this journey carrying a heavy backpack indeed.

These responsibilities may often be conflicted: we cannot hold them all to be concurrently true: our responsibility to the planet may cause us to reduce travel, but our obligations to our colleagues, or the needs of a project, may necessitate flights.

When there is no perfect path to follow, the responsibility of a leader is to chart the best path they can, whilst holding themselves accountable within their many systems.

This may be one of the hardest aspects of contemporary leadership, because it necessitates us standing against systems: sometimes the best path to take is not the easiest one, and most paths come at a cost.

Which will leave us asking a fundamental question of a Social Leader: what kind of leader will i be? To whom will i be accountable, and what price am i willing to pay?

The very notion that there is a price to pay, to do what is ostensibly the right thing to do, is one that should concern us, but which should also indicate both our core challenge, and central responsibility.

If there is one single role for a leader, it is to help the system to do better: from themselves within it, to the Organisation itself.

Many Organisations profess a desire to do better, to be better, and yet many of them fail in the detail, or succeed up to the point of discomfort.

This is the journey we are on, and this is our challenge, our responsibility, and our task: to understand (and help others to understand) the broad context of change, to change ourselves (and to help others to do so), and to change the system (with ourselves as part of the system).

Accountability means a willingness to pay the price, but also to share the cost, and to ensure that nobody pays too much.

Where there is a cost, to openly explore it, and to collectively share it.

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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