Thursday, 27 December 2018

Preparations for the Social Age

Earlier this year I picked up Julian Stodd's The Social Leadership Handbook (2nd ed, 2016) and the accompanying workbook Social Leadership - My First 100 Days (2017). I am a regular reader Stodd's articles and blog posts and always found him to be a refreshing thinker with practical ideas.

At work, I am currently working with a couple of staff on building their social capital within our organisation and beyond. So I read Stodd's Handbook with a view to seeing whether it would help me to help them in this endeavour, and whether the Workbook would be something that they would benefit from exploring.

Having read a fair few leadership and management books in my time, Stodd's approach is delightfully different. He argues that social businesses will build trust, encourage innovation, and be more adaptive. Likewise, social leaders are able to navigate this new ecosystem by being able to operate in both formal and social spaces.

Stodd has created a model of social leadership he calls NET - Narrative, Engagement and Technology. The Narrative section is all about storytelling, curation and sharing. Engagement is about agility, community building and reputation. The Technology section focuses on social capital, collaboration and co-creation.

The Handbook is extremely easy to read and can be consumed in little morsels at a time for those who cannot commit to long stretches of reading and reflection.  At times I found the book a bit repetitive, but then I have read much of Stodd's work, and see this as a positive reinforcement.

Admittedly, I did struggle with the Workbook. Initially I tried to set aside time at the end of each day to undertake the daily task. Some were straight forward like pondering where knowledge lives in your organisation (day 4), while others required discussion with colleagues like considering where stories are used in your organisation (day 20). The ones on my own were easy, but by leaving it to the end of the day, I would often find I had missed opportunities to engage with a colleague where required. As a consequence my 100 days has taken me significantly longer and remains unfinished.  But what I did find was that I enjoyed dipping in and out of this workbook, rather than working from cover to cover.

I also want to comment on the physical books. The Handbook is a sturdy hardcover with pastel colour scheme, filled with 'hand-drawn' illustrations. Just the right size for commute reading, with helpful chapter summaries. The spiral bound workbook is petite, able to lie flat for easy use and beautifully crafted. The two go together well. Stodd also has a podcast and a MOOC to accompany this series.

As someone who practices working out loud and critical reflection, I found this Handbook and Workbook wonderful tools to further my practice. I have used the ideas in my workplace, particularly in how I curate and share, and encouraged colleagues to engage with many of Stodd's ideas. I would recommend these tools to anyone looking to change their leadership practice or those working with new managers to build their social leadership abilities.