Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The missing perspective on leadership

I've been interested for a while on writing a book called Leadership by one of the Led. It’s a perspective that doesn't seem to be present in the massive industry that seems to surround leadership as a concept.

Leader Duck Photo: Pedro Ribeiro Simões on Flickr

A while ago I searched for ‘Leadership’ in the Books section of Amazon.com and got back 165,897 results.  So, it seems there is no shortage of information out there. Now admittedly, I didn't look at all 165,897 books. But in the first 20 or so pages, I noticed a couple of trends.

The first is to reveal the secrets of successful leaders. In addition to an opus on ‘Leadership’ written by former Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, there are books on ‘Dwight Eisenhower's Leadership Lessons’, ‘The Leadership of Muhammad’, ‘The Leadership Secrets of Genghis Khan’, and ‘The Fourfold Leadership of Jesus’.

What do Genghis Khan, Rudolph Giuliani, Dwight Eisenhower, Jesus and Muhammad all have in common? Apparently they had their own unique style of leadership that brought them success – and if you read the books, the subtle promise is that you could have the same sort of impact.

So, one trend is the idea that to be a leader, you have to copy other leaders.

The other trend is to invent a new ‘type’ of leadership, presumably at the suggestion of your publisher to differentiate yourself in the crowded marketplace of leadership books.

So within a few pages of Amazon listings you can learn about Courageous Leadership, Passive Leadership, Primal Leadership, Values-Based Leadership, Tribal Leadership, Fierce Leadership, Effective Leadership, Authentic Leadership, Adaptive Leadership, Liquid Leadership, Brand Leadership, Spiritual Leadership, Quiet Leadership, Resonant Leadership, Relational Leadership, Living Leadership, Servant Leadership, Transformational Leadership, Passionate Leadership, Strategic Leadership, and Turnaround Leadership.

With so many types out there, there must be one to suit just about anyone. The message here seems to be to find the right type for you. (Personally I like the idea of ‘Liquid Leadership’, which in my mind’s eye involves the phrase “Quick! To the bar!”)

And most of those types seem good. You wouldn't want spineless leadership when you can have courageous leadership, or hypocritical instead of authentic, or amoral leadership, or impotent leadership, or dead leadership.

But with all these viewpoints available, it’s fair to ask the question: What could possibly be missing given all that’s been written about leadership?

Well, maybe there is still something else left to say. What about the viewpoint of those who aren't already leaders or trying to become leaders?

It’s as if the ‘led’ have nothing to add to the discussion, even though being one of the led is the vantage point to best assess the success of any leader at the things which are supposed to matter in the world of leadership. It’s easy for leaders to be seen as successful, but hard to know how much of their success is genuinely down to their leadership and how much is down to just plain dumb luck. The led are the people who are most likely to know.

If you have any thoughts on this project I'd really like to hear them.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Interesting developments in communications

I've been seeing some interesting charts and diagrams on Twitter over the last few days, which anyone who works in Comms may find useful. Here are three of them. Obviously all the copyright remains with the organisations who created the diagrams, but as they've tweeted them, I hope they won't mind me reproducing them here with proper attribution.

First up is this breakdown by Microsoft of PC v mobile usage. (Edit: the blue is PC and the pink is mobile in the graph.) The main learning point is that very few people use mobile devices for email. In work we have recently talked about optimising our email newsletters for mobiles, but I now wonder how much we should be concerned. Obviously we want to make sure they are readable, but the assumption that everyone gets email on their mobiles isn't accurate. 

Click the image to embiggen it to readable size

On the other hand, using social media to drive traffic to websites requires making sure the website is optimised for mobile as 66% of social networking usage is on mobile devices. Two thirds of  SoMe consumers will potentially be clicking through from a mobile device. That has implications for website design.

The next graph is from The Economist and shows how Whatsapp is overtaking SMS text messages. What’s also interesting is how SMS has plateaud and even fallen back slightly. 

This usage graph suggests that Whatsapp may give you as much reach as SMS if you were exploring a new comms channel. Although you’d need to know more about user demography. I suspect Whatsapp is still very much an under-30s medium, a bit like Instagram. (These are my suspicions, I haven't checked to see if there is data out there. I'm basing my assumption on the people I know using either Whatsapp or Instagram.) 

We also still don’t know if Whatsapp’s growth is a bubble that may burst when something new comes along. But what it does show is how quickly a new comms channel can develop. In three years it is reaching the heights it took SMS almost 20 years to reach.

The third diagram has been created by Hootsuite and I really like it. It’s a honeycomb of user experience to guide the creation of web content that will engage people. 

I don’t think this is limited to creating content for websites. I have seen a lot of material produced that tick off none of these characteristics. I may even have been guilty of producing some myself - that web-page that someone has requested because they want a web-page rather than for any compelling user-oriented reason.

As a final thought, I wouldn't have seen any of these if it hadn't been for Twitter. People don't often regard social media as a learning channel, but I find more and more interesting stuff that makes me think turning up in my feed these days. There is a lot of data out there to drive good comms. It's just a question of noticing it.