Social Leadership in Practice

I’ve come down to Hood River, OR for the weekend to work on an idea that has two objectives. 1) to be an example of social leadership in practice and 2) to provide a resource about social leadership for those who are interested in starting and are struggling with where to begin.

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Ssh! Rocky is still sleeping after the epic drive from Seattle. Good job buddy! 

The term ‘social leadership’ is used to mean different things. In this instance, I use it to relate it to a book I have been tasked with “teaching”. In my opinion, this concept, as it is understood by Julian Stodd, cannot necessarily be taught. It can be tried, and tested, explored and reflected on, yes. However, I cannot tell you “how to do it”.

In fact, I make it my business, literally, not to tell anyone how to do ‘it’. It has to be incorporated into a personal change journey, it speaks to the base values that you hold as a human being active in the world. It is a suggestion, a framework that can be played with, experimented upon until the version that fits with you, with your wants, and desires, your needs, emerges.

This is a difficult way to approach anything. Especially now that social everything is everywhere. We get information from so many sources, we barely have time to think about it. To do anything with it. Yet more and more organizations are changing their approach to learning and development, seeing the potential of a decentralized, democratized learning system. Tapping into the workforce for stories of experience can build a highly collaborative and innovative culture. However, navigating the information, and sharing information out does not come naturally to everyone.

“People with agency”, those mythical beasts! Who have clear goals and objectives thrive in this seemingly chaotic environment. They do this naturally: taking and sorting, synthesizing the information newly available and running with it. For people like me however, it can sometimes be overwhelming. I’ve spent the past 14 months (since I met Julian and got my hands on his first edition) testing, trying, seeing what works for me. Why? I saw this take on social leadership as a way to help me channel my values and interests, creating in me a sense of agency that can be seen by others, in the trail I leave behind.

In collaboration with another curator, Kate Ensor and (hopefully, eventually!) other curators, the proposal is to create a social leadership in practice narrative, drawing from relevant and active members of this burgeoning community spcifically with a view to providing a resource for practitioners.

In an of itself, I want it to be a space people can refer to, hear stories about, share challenges of, social leadership. Really, it’s a space that will help us to make sense of the noise and connect the dots, by helping others do the same.

I’ve just finished going over the notes from today, which was a truly co-creative day! We came up with some basic understandings, a manifesto if you will, for this resource:

  • No part of the Social Leadership framework can exist independently of the other. Identifying an element as a goal or challenge to work towards requires a holistic approach, each element of the framework helps work towards that goal.
  • Where I go, what I do with social leadership is based on my values and interests.
  • One person does not need to perfect each element of the framework. There is no legendary Social Leader status. Understanding where you are and identifying goals will help you to find others who complement you, who can help ‘fill the gaps’*
  • Social leadership is about change. It is a way to navigate a rapidly changing world, improving personal resilience and flexibility, a path to innovation and continued inspiration, and a way to lead a values driven career.

*The third one goes against the text in the definition I provided above (I noticed this as I pasted it in). This is a philosophical difference perhaps, in which I do not think that there is mastery here. Based on the first point, there will be different versions and iterations of success, depending on what your goals are. I don’t think one person can or should aim for all of everything. There is no state of social leadership nirvana.

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