Ben Lichtenwalner presents Digital Media and the Future of Leadership at Hope College’s Critical Issues Symposium. Having difficulties viewing the video? Click here.
Leadership is not easy, but digital media makes it easier than ever before. Whether or not you leverage this opportunity, there are major influencers who will. You must decide: are you going to sit on the sidelines? Or, are you going to use this opportunity to be a more effective servant leader?
I recently spoke at Hope College’s Critical Issues Symposium, on the topic of Digital Media and the Future of Leadership. As you know, this is a topic I’m passionate about. I’m certain you’ll enjoy the message. Above are the highlights. The full length talk can also be found on Youtube. The transcript of the full talk is below.
Be sure to leave a comment and tell me what you think.
So, I’m sitting across from the Chief Financial Officer of a major organization and he’s going on about the next director he plans to fire. I tune him out pretty quickly as I start doing the math in my head.
Let’s see, that 3 directors in as many weeks… and across his entire organization – Wait! Yep, that’s it, his entire organization has now turned over 3 times in 2 years. Everyone in his department has either left or been fired by him, because he’s got this really bad habit of hiring people, working them to the bone, burning them out and then firing them – less than a year after hiring them.
As the Chief Information Officer for the organization, it’s my unfortunate responsibility to support his behaviors. And it’s really been bothering me. In fact, it’s gotten so bad at this point that I have a playlist of songs on my iPod to listen to, to psych me up and to get me energized for the day.
So on this particular occasion, I stop and I think to myself, “what is leadership?” Because what this guy’s doing is not leadership. Leaving a wake of bodies in your path is not leadership. Yet, he’s the Chief Financial Officer of a major organization.
So I do – I start reading everything I can find on leadership. I pick up every book, I read every website. I just consume vast amounts of information about leadership. And then, one day, I come across this term called, “servant leadership”. And it’s like a choir of angels sang to me.
Okay, maybe there was no choir of angels. But I did recognize a calling at that point. You see, I recognized that servant leadership is authentic leadership. The only reason we need the term servant is because too many people today have confused leadership as an achievement to reach, rather than a commitment to serve [share this quote: Twitter | LinkedIn].
So why weren’t more people aware of this? And that, I recognized, was my calling. So I started a blog on it, I wrote a book about it. I converted that book into digital format, into audio format, I started Twitter accounts, Youtube channels… I did everything I could to get the word out about servant leadership.
And then, it occurred to me, this concept of servant leadership and the tools I am using are perfectly matched. In fact, digital media – that everybody was talking about as a “marketing tool”, a “self-promotion tool”, a sales tool, a “grow your net worth” tool – these were actually leadership tools! But nobody was talking about them that way…
You see, leadership is not easy – at all. But digital media today, makes leadership easier than ever before. Leadership is not easy, but digital media makes it easier than ever before. [share this quote: Twitter | LinkedIn]
Nomadic Era Leadership
Here’s why I think that: The first real occurrence of leadership is back in the nomadic era, right? We have, basically, the cave man era, where leadership is largely one-way – small groups. Whoever has the biggest club is the leader. He says, you do. He hits you over the head if you don’t and that’s essentially what leadership is. Very small groups – maybe a dozen or so people, family units, tribes and one-way.
Agricultural Era Leadership
Then we hit the agricultural era, where we started, as human beings, to bring our food to us, we started to have communities – towns – villages, and leadership structures start to emerge. As a result, a leader is able to send a message out to a community through a leadership structure and reach… probably several hundred people at this point. The Apostle Paul lived at this time – oh, you may know him as Saul, by the way. The Apostle Paul lived during this time and he realized that digital media – he didn’t have. The closest thing he had, was writing letters. So he used what he had available – he wrote letters. And, thank God he did – lots and lots of letters.
He did the best he could to overcome that challenge – that leadership was still largely one-way. There was no way to get communication back, from the community. Not as a whole. He could still get community feedback, by small groups – you could get messages delivered. But the feedback you got was largely subjective and it was largely interpreted by the person delivering the message.
Printing Press Era Leadership
Next, we hit the printing press where we make a massive advancement in leadership communications, in that the breadth of the reach of the leader grows, exponentially. A leader can now reach thousands and thousands of people with exactly the wording they seek to deliver.
They write it down, it’s printed out and it goes out into the community. You can reach a large audience for the first time. But it’s still one-way. Getting that feedback from everybody that you’re reaching with your message, is nearly impossible. You’re going to get subjective feedback, interpreted by the messenger. Your communications as a leader are still one-way.
Broadcast Era Leadership
Then we hit the broadcast era: TV and radio. With TV and radio, you can reach thousands – even millions of people, in new formats. Much more quickly than ever before. But still, one-way.
You see, the problem here is we develop polls and surveys, but everything you get is still only an observation of a small group of leaders or a small group of the community. You’re not really getting feedback from everyone you’re reaching with your message… Until now.
Digital Era Leadership
Now we have digital media and in the digital media era, we have the first opportunity to get feedback from the entire organization you’re trying to reach. Oh sure, you might not be getting one-on-one conversations with thousands or millions of people, but you can have a one-on-one conversation with one person, that is rated, ranked, liked, plus oned – all the feedback you can think of, by the entire organization that wants to be a part of that message.
Anyone in this room can send a message out to the world and get feedback from everybody that’s interested in that message. And oh, by the way, you can do it completely for free.
Leadership is not easy, but digital media makes it easier than ever before.
You know, there’s a big question still hanging in your minds though, about, “why should we care”, right? So we have this tool, leaders are out there, they can use it. But, why should we care about it?
Let’s take a look at the people who understand this concept. Whether or not they are leaders. Certainly, whether or not they are servant leaders. There are people out there who are using this opportunity.
Up To 10,000 Followers
Up to about 10,000 followers in digital media – we have this group. Now again, this is a selective group, obviously. But we have the Apostle Paul I mentioned earlier. If he were alive today, using digital media to reach about the same number of people he was doing very effectively, given the time, to reach with his letters, he’d be up to about 10,000 followers, at this time.
Our own servant leader, president Knapp – who you heard speak earlier – he’s up to about 10,000 followers in digital media. And the Reformed Church of America in that same category. A pretty good group.
Up To 100,000 Followers
A hundred thousand. Our very own, Hope College – up to a hundred thousand followers – way to go Hope! Does anyone recognize the other one up there though? That’s Isis’s media network.
Now, if you’re not aware, Isis is very effective at using social media. They use it both to attract new followers and to scare off organizations as they advance into new territories. Isis is incredibly effective at social media. They’re influencing our communities. Our global communities are being influenced by up to about 100,000 followers – right now – by Isis.
Up To 1,000,000 Followers
One million. Trinity Broadcasting Network – the largest Christian broadcasting network in the world, has up to about a million followers in digital media. Anybody recognize the other one?
That’s Al Manar news, which is, essentially, Hessbollah’s media news outlet. Up to about a million digital media followers. They also are affecting our global communities and influencing them through digital media.
Up To 20,000,000 Followers
20 Million digital media followers. Yay Pope! The Pope’s a pretty popular guy, for all kinds of good reasons, but he’s also probably the most effective ever, at digital media. Now, granted, he probably has a staff helping him out, but he’s using it very effectively.
Somebody not quite so much like the Pope though, is Charlie Sheen. Paris Hilton. Not people I think of as great role models for the youth of today. But they’re also influencing up to about 20 million of our stakeholders in our communities.
Up To 75,000,000 Followers
Then, we hit the major leagues: 75 million followers on digital media. I don’t know about you guys, but I have to teach my 3 year old not to stick his tongue out all the time and then I’ve gotta have Miley Cyrus on the screen all the time. Thanks, Miley.
Snoop Dogg, Kim Kardashian. You decide for yourself. Are these the type of people we want influencing our communities? Maybe. But if you don’t, it’s up to you, as leaders, to start influencing more effectively online.
Leadership is not easy. It never will be. But digital media is an opportunity that makes it easier than ever before. Every leader that’s come before you would have loved to have had this tool, available to them, to be more effective leaders.
Prosthetic Limb Story
Before I leave today, I want to give you one more story. This is Kerstin Baun. Kerstin works with digital prosthetics – bionic prosthetics. She works with some of the most advanced technology for amputees, upper-limb amputees.
I asked Kerstin – I said, “Kerstin, in your work with your patients, what is it that makes someone more effective at adapting the new technology – more likely to be successful with the technology?”
She said, “Without a doubt, it is someone who is excited about the power and the potential of the technology.”
“That’s interesting, Kerstin” I said, “What is that makes it more challenging, what is it that’s still difficult for your patients to do, no matter how much time they spend working with the technology?”
She said, “Well, the problem with the technology today, is it still doesn’t provide sensatory feedback. You see, a natural hand, has the ability to sense something in it. You know as an individual, whether something is being held too tight, or too loose and is going to slip through your fingers. But a bionic limb doesn’t have that sensory feedback.”
How much is that like leadership? You see, we have the power and the opportunity before us – if you’re excited about it. And the sensory feedback problem? We don’t have that anymore. We have digital media to give us instantaneous feedback, from a global audience – on your message.
So the next time you’re on social media, think about how you are using this opportunity and this potential to leverage stakeholders in our communities. And, to be a more effective servant leader. Thank you.