If you’re reading this post, the likelihood is you use social media to support, even drive, your professional development. Perhaps you blog? Tweet? If so, you may have subscribers or followers.
My question then is, does that make you a leader? Could a leader be considered as simply someone who has followers?
There are those who define leaders in terms of the traits or qualities they exhibit – honesty, integrity, flexibility, empathy, conviction; or being inspirational, communicative, decisive, supportive, creative, enthusiastic or resilient. I wouldn’t be in the slightest bit surprised to learn that you display some of those qualities, though I suspect you wouldn’t classify yourself as a leader solely on that basis, if at all. Others argue for leadership where actions, interactions, behaviours and practices provide evidence for a leader at work and here we begin to see that leadership might be more to do with the outcomes those actions precipitate, rather than innate properties. For me a leader is someone who has a positive influence on others, resulting in a change in behaviour, practice or thinking; someone who moves people and situations forward.
I see (and follow) leaders on the Web all the time. They make me think, change my opinion, improve my skills, increase my knowledge and above all, move me forward. This helps me to do my job better and therefore has a positive effect on my school, an organisation with which those leaders have no affiliation. I’ve also heard (read?) some of those same leaders express concerns about how tough it can be, despite their efforts, having the same effects in their own schools; the ones that are paying their salaries. How curious that the same person can be an almost unintentional leader online with people they may never have met, yet have to work much harder offline with colleagues with whom they presumably share the same organisational vision and goals?
Is it that online, you don’t have a specific agenda to drive forward; you aren’t being held to account through an annual assessment of your performance and there is no burden of expectation? In essence you have far freater freedom to pursue your passions and along the way, sometimes help and guide others who share your interests. Perhaps then leadership is more about the tougher path of taking those people forward who are less enthusiastic, less confident and for whatever reasons, more resistant? And would it also be fair to say that those individuals are less likely to be found online?
image courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/17516529@N00/3865553118