Emerging themes from ‘Social Pioneers’

Co-written with Kate Ensor

What does it take to start practicing social leadership? The term is used by Julian Stodd on his blog and understood by Harold Jarche as connected leadership. It’s about building reputation in a highly connected context, whether on the open web or in an organization. As beginners in this realm ourselves, we were interested in two things, 1) to show 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. In this introduction to our 4 part series we introduce the themes that emerged from 4 interviews we conducted with people who embody different versions of social leadership but espouse similar values. This article also has a parallel story. It is the first output of an experimental co-created project that follows an agile development methodology to determine what content and methods gains the most traction.

The first step in our process was to create a number of user stories to develop against. We chose the following story, as it seemed the easiest to start with!

As someone who has read the book, I want to know what the easiest way to start is, so I can get started.

Our way of responding to this user story was to interview people who are present in our common network and who we agreed were social leaders. We thought of people who are visible online, who have built a reputation, based on our understanding of Social Leadership according to the Social Leadership Handbook and gut feeling. People who, based on our understanding, would be good to emulate! Especially with regards to building reputation online.

Four themes emerged from the interviews regarding social leadership and what it takes.

  • First for me:

This theme refers to our social leaders’ motivation. What drives them to begin, and continue this journey of online engagement, and online presence. We found that each one was intrinsically motivated by a desire to learn, to improve, to share of themselves.

  • Journey of experimentation and discovery of online voice

Each of our social leaders built their reputations, both on the open web or in an organizational context, through trial and error. The process is one of experimentation that leads to discovery of what others react to and find value in. Each shares work or thoughts in progress, rather than a finished product. They are in a constantly evolving state.

  • My Story:

A story about how they started emerged from each interview, as part of the way our social leaders communicated their experiences. Both of us found those stories interesting and wanted to share them as inspiration and information.

  • Challenges of pioneering:

Finally, this theme is pretty self explanatory. Each of the social leaders we interviewed identified personal challenges that they had to overcome along their journey.

The next four articles will take a look at what our interviewees had to say about each of these themes.