It’s a new year. I’m writing and working from the wilds of Canada, in Nelson, BC. A new home and a new office for a new year. Is it a new me? (Ha, no. Just a resurrection of the old me, more to follow). Apologies for what ended up being a close up of my breakfast… Of course my new desk looks nothing so neat now.
It was pretty difficult for me to get back into the swing of work after a long holiday, filled with lots of time just for me! But, get back into it I did. It’s easy to do when I am able to execute my much needed formula for remote work while working on a project that captures my full attention.
In preparation for a workshop I am designing and co-facilitating, I have to explain Social Leadership in laymen’s terms (part of a bigger project, will share more when it’s ready!). As if to a 5 year old was the request! I’m sharing the result for your benefit and also to sense check. The story is based on the Social Leadership cards I developed last year and the Handbook (see above link).
These few words turned out to be a great brain exercise that happened in a few parts. I wanted to focus on Narrative, because this was the part that gave the most trouble to the participants in a previous workshop I developed. First I tried to draw my thinking.
This was a good exercise because it helped me understand that this wasn’t going to help me… I realized I wouldn’t be able to fit everything on a page and it inadequately conveyed my thinking. Not surprising since I had a previous attempt last year, live, that failed miserably (there is a photo… somewhere).
This attempt is more along the lines of a story. I’ve attempted to explain in clear terms, without reverting to jargon.
Narrative is the outward expression of your passion and interest. In the course of your work and the connections you have made with people, either online or offline, you have identified recurrent themes. From the stories you hear, the articles you read, the videos you watch, the podcasts you listen to, the books you read, the conferences you go to, the speakers you identify with, the community or network you are a part of, the shows you watch. All of these sources of information inform your understanding of the world. And from these sources of information, based on your values and interests, you make a path. The path is defined by all the information and people around you. The more people ask questions, challenge it, knock up against it, the more you talk about it, elucidate and deepen your understanding of your path. You learn what it’s boundaries are, and you are able to decide which direction it will go, based on your learnings and reflections about the information and people around you. The path is your Narrative.
In the ‘wild’ (on the open web), a social leader’s path emerges purely from values and interests. In an organizational context, a social leader negotiates the tension between the organization’s values and vision and their own. In an organizational context, the social leader contributes to the organizations values and vision, however is able to find and exploit the commonalities in vision and values between themselves and the organization.
When a social leader goes online and reads, watches, listens, they exercise their critical thinking skills. They have learned to discipline their minds, to take in information without losing focus (Rheingold, 2010). They actively discover and interpret the information they receive, they examine it, try to understand it and evaluate whether it is relevant to their focus. They make sense of the noise by curating. When a social leader curates, they determine what pieces of information are valuable, to themselves based on their values and interests. They are active, interpreting the world around them and relating it to themselves. They find the meaning in what they read, see and hear and they share that information with people they know because they think it will be useful and relevant to them. They share certain information in certain channels, depending on the narrative that is represented in that channel. For example, they actively decide and choose which platforms to share professional or personal information on. By sharing, they help others succeed. Social leaders not only share information received from others, but also connect the dots by reflecting on what they have read, seen and heard.
They share their perception based on what they have seen, heard, and read, by telling thoughtful stories that describe their context: where they work, what they do, what they see around them, expressing their views, either in agreement or disagreement, their opinions and their experiences. They communicate their perceptions with others, refining the language they need to express their ideas with every telling, both on and offline (rehearsal space). They invite questions, challenges and feedback from others. The more they tell stories, either in written or other form, they hone in on emergent ideas and concepts that occur again and again along a common path.
In the wild, their narrative will emerge from the stories they share, as themes and ideas reoccur. In an organisational context, the social leader creates a narrative out of the tension between the organisation’s values and vision and their own values, interests and experiences in the organizational context. The more they tell stories, share what they see, hear, read, the more solid, the more concrete their ideas, and their path, becomes. The wheat becomes separated from the chaff. They more they share what they deem or perceive to be valuable to others, the more they define their path. They are increasingly seen as someone who provides useful information and thinking along a certain theme.