Finding Leadership through Social Media

Growing up everyone seemed to know what they wanted to be. Then there was me. All I wanted was to be a leader. Now when you are at school, trying to tell someone you want to be a leader does not go down too well – or at least where I come from.

They then make you take the careers test. Did you take one when you were at school?

You get asked a battery of questions and pencil in your answer by colouring the specific circle. You wait two weeks and they come back with a list of ‘careers’ that best match your personality and skills. Great. Well in theory.

I have never been so disappointed. I got administrator. Being young, and I didn’t have the internet back then, I thought administrator was a career. Other people got farmer, homemaker and retail assistant. What happened to doctor, solicitor, forensic scientist, lecturer or even entrepreneur?

Talk about shooting low. Not that there is anything wrong with administrators, farmers, retail assistants or homemakers but they were not for me.

So what do you do when you are being severely underestimated?
You prove them wrong of course.

While I say I wanted to be a leader, I did not know what I wanted to be a leader of. I liked the idea that leaders were visionaries and they could make change. But coming from a small town being a leader was going to be a hard. And with the task of leader of no particular thing, it was going to be harder.

Now I have grown up and found my career path, I’m happy. I am still not a worldwide leader in my field but I am happy.
I now know that I wanted to be recognised and remembered for the work I achieved in my career. Maybe that is a leader but not in the sense I first versioned as a child. I’m working towards my goal.

In my own personal career path I am about to be recognised with a PhD, so I am making small steps.
Looking back it seems a little naïve that I wanted to be a leader as I feel that leaders are born and not made.
However in the world of social media many are attempting to become the leading expert. These people are widely regarded as influencers but in the traditional sense they are leaders.

The problem with social media is that there are no true leaders, there are no experts. Many claim to be experts but fall short on the claim. Others are doing well and may emerge as the leading expert.

The selling point for many professionals is that social media facilitates a global coverage. While going viral is a limited experience, if this happens to you, you are recognisable as influencing. Brands worldwide are seeking the viral experience. Many experts claim to be able to produce strategy to do so. However those achieving the right mix are still as exclusive club. While social media may allow anyone or any brand to become an influencer in their area, you have to ask yourself if you can maintain this leadership stance. A true leader will be able to do so. Those waving in and out of social media success, possibly not.

Social media is a double edged sword. It can provide great success and influence but can also highlight any issues with your company or brand. I would suggest that going viral not be the main objective but follow a community building strategy. Think about the PR professional with the rolodex. The one with the biggest rolodex has the most influence.
Building community or networks will provide you with the resources and contacts to achieve your future goals. So social media can provide you with an avenue for leadership but it is a slow growth, not an overnight fix.

In building community, your influence and your rolodex, I would suggest:
1. Think about what social profiles you want to develop and why
2. Think about what value you want to create
3. Filter ‘social noise’ in your field and join in the conversation
4. Engage with valuable content
5. Listen to you community
6. Respond to your community

Think about the tortoise and the hare. Once you have the basics down you can be more creative with your approach and increase your influence. Remember the effects from one viral sensation will not last forever; a true leader will be able to maintain influence. I believe you can achieve that with a strong community.

As for me, I am going to follow my own advice more. And I will prove those teachers wrong. I have to say that I am good at admin tasks though…!!

4 Comments on Finding Leadership through Social Media

  1. I’ve taken note of the 6 areas that you recommend we develop Jillian. I think the valuable point for me is to filter it down, don’t just aim to build up dialogue with the world but with a specific community that will relate to me and the work that I love to do. Thanks for the advice.

  2. My career advice was “go to university”. I didn’t do this and chose an earn whilst you learn option. I got my degree in the evenings while slowly climbing the corporate ladder. I have always been able to “lead” but have never really asssessed the specifics of why and how. Since leaving corp world and commencing this, and other, ventures, I have found that competing for attention in the social media world increasingly challenging. There are so many “leadership coaches” business coaches and “guru’s” that it is unsurprising that peope looking for support waste so much time and money on false messiahs. I will integrate your 6 points into my strategy and buold influence gradually. Thanks Jill.

  3. “I now know that I wanted to be recognised and remembered for the work I achieved in my career”

    What a great aim! I believe that that is what many people want but even if they do realise it they don’t articulate it and therefore anyone who could help them don’t know what they are aiming for.

    So I am working hard to get people to speak up about what they want to do..

    ..and I will use this post to illustrate what is possible when they do!

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