Collective Action VS. Networking

Leadership Through Example

Leadership is important for collective action in order to establish unity and momentum toward a common goal. Examples of the significance of leadership are laced within the hierarchical structure of our society. When considering the pursuit of a social change, one must examine the key role that the leader plays. Malcolm Gladwell opened his text, Small Change with a powerful image of a massive sit in during the civil rights movement. The impact of leadership is illustrated well by this key step forward in the civil rights movement. In order to achieve social progress or collective action, a figure or a group of individuals must not lead by words or text. Leadership through actions and modeling proves to be effective specifically in Gladwell’s text.

Leadership occurred through Ezell Blair and the other three college students sitting by the lunch counter for whites. These students acted as a relatable model for supporters, causing the protest to spread profoundly far and wide. Their leadership facilitated collective action and sparked the movement of a population. The movement occurred because of the actions of the leaders, not the words. The act of sitting in on segregated seats spoke loudly about racial boundaries in society. Leading through doing shows efficacy when pursuing social justice.

Social progress requires a strong movement within a population toward a common goal. Populations have the power to not only gain social justice, but to contribute to different avenues of collective efforts. There is undoubtedly power in numbers, but the unity between the numbers is crucial. Collective efforts on a large scale can move forward at a staggering rate. Sourcing information from large amounts of people is possible through the networking, specifically on the internet.

Leadership Through Networking

With networks such as the internet, one has the effort to orchestrate a large amount of users. Collective efforts on the web can prove to generate momentum within entire populations as individuals subscribe to the same movement. A leader can encourage unity and anonymity to strengthen an open network interface. Marshall Poe’s The Hive, leadership was shown to be crucial in forming the prestigious online free encyclopedia, Wikipedia. The different contributors to the site converged on a solution to achieve collective action in the encyclopedia in order for it to be self sustainable. Poe succinctly described the collaborative group effort that the leaders engineered,

“The wiki could break the Nupedia bottleneck by permitting volunteers to work simultaneously all over the project.”

(Poe) With this clever use of the online community as a resource, the leaders in Wikipedia essentially crafted an open interface in which users can submit, review and edit each other’s work. One must note that the leadership from the few contributors, allowed the design of the free encyclopedia to function properly. The lack of hierarchy was a key aspect in the functioning of Wikipedia.

The Significance of Strong and Weak Ties

The idea of strong and weak ties professed by Gladwell highlights contrasting leadership styles. Unity as well as anonymity can be effective vehicles to conquer goals through collaborative group efforts. On the topic of weak ties, Poe’s text brings forth an example of anonymity to the brink of anarchy. Leadership occurred here through steering the users toward the goal of collaborating on the free encyclopedia. This is an example of the strength in weak ties. Gladwell’s text clearly referenced the uses and strong points of weak ties concisely; “Our acquaintances — not our friends — are our greatest source of new ideas and information. The Internet lets us exploit the power of these kinds of distant connections with marvellous efficiency.” (Gladwell) In the context of this Wikipedia example, the leaders are facilitating the convergence of users to create momentum toward their goal of a self sustainable free encyclopedia. This form of leadership contrasts with the collective action that took place in the sit in during the civil rights movement. The collective action from the protesters persevered towards social justice, building strong ties. The strong ties helped bond a community together in order to conquer the racial oppression apparent. Both strong and weak ties have shown efficacy in different domains, but it is the roles that the leader play that dictate which ties will be formed.

The differences between strong and weak ties fall upon methodology of leadership. Gladwell made it clear to the reader that relationships in person have different value than social media examples. In other words Gladwell believes,

“Social networks are effective at increasing participation — by lessening the level of motivation that participation requires.”

Mechanisms of Networking

(Gladwell) Leading a group to participate through social networking is a much less daunting task than leading a group to push the limits of racial boundaries during the civil rights era. Also, consider how the strong ties worked so well to elicit collective action in this case. The brave actions of a few were necessary in order to lead the collective action of many. Therefore, if weak ties were used in this civil rights scenario, the same outcome would not have been possible. These strong ties allowed togetherness and unity to help gather momentum towards the goal. The weak ties that connected users allowed the leaders of the encyclopedia to increase participation on a grand scale. Due to this clever leadership, Wikipedia used weak ties as a vehicle to become a self sustainable free online encyclopedia.

Leadership Styles in Contrast

The differences between leading through collective action versus networking have been unearthed through the examples of Wikipedia and the sit in during the civil rights movement.It is crucial in order to move forward and progress no matter the direction of the path. Preschool classrooms, teams, institutions, and governments all use leaders to help organize and steer the group toward the common goal. Either through strong ties or weak ties, leaders can direct the traffic in order to reach the destination. Leadership through strong ties specifically has remarkable power within society. Social networking and the internet can be influential, but to what extend does online media emotionally influence large groups of individuals? Inspiration is driven mostly from examples seen by brave or passionate people. Strong ties have a sentimental value that cannot be replicated by weak ties. The importance of weak ties lies within participation and scale. Both forms of ties are interesting leadership styles but with the right leader, strong ties can change an entire society’s social structure.