Digital Leader

"…if this were your last day on earth, would you be happy with what you are doing and who you are as a person?"

- Digital Leader, page 89

I am literally reeling from reading Erik Qualman’s Digital Leader: 5 Simple Keys to Success and Influence. Qualman tells us that the first habit of digital leadership is to “Simplify” and then gives so many tips (along with numerous examples from companies, politicians, CEOs and others) for how to do that and the other four habits that I’m overwhelmed with exciting things that I know will work if only I did them.  He says that even he does his best to adhere to the principles he’s laid out but he’s a long way from following them consistently.  The only reason I kept reading after the hyperventilation state I had reached by the end of Chapter 2 (and these are short, easy to read chapters with lots of quotes, bullet points and white space) was the quote – “Once you accept the fact that you aren’t going to get every thing done, then you can better address what should get done.”

The five habits of digital leadership:

SIMPLE: success is the result of simplification and focus
TRUE: be true to your passion
ACT: nothing happens without action – take the first step
MAP: goals and vision are needed to get where you want to be
PEOPLE: success doesn’t happen alone

These form the acronym STAMP because these are the habits that create your personal stamp -on your life and others’ lives. Qualman’s tips and examples of how real people implement them are primarily digital ones (social media, email) but all have components that people have followed for centuries as leaders.

The difference now is the far reaching and the long lasting effect of your influence as a leader.  We all know this as we deal vaguely with how best to write an email so it’s not taken differently than it’s meant because it’s missing our facial expressions and tone of voice. Or, as we read about a potential employee who doesn’t get a job because their Facebook page has pictures of them doing some obscene gesture. But what really brought the long lastingness of our digital legacy to “I better take this seriously” level for me was this statistic: it’s estimated that ¼ of babies have sonogram photos posted online before they are even born.

That means our parents (and their planning for our digital legacy or lack thereof) are shaping what people think of us before we can read this book and implement its ideas! We’re behind the game with words, videos and pictures describing us to the world before we start working on our legacy.  Whether I implement any of the specifics in this book or not I am absolutely committed to acting on the fact that leadership legacy isn’t what I leave people when I’m not the leader anymore – it’s what I do now.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

We are all mini-digital celebrities and heroes to someone

"If you truly want a life that inspires, you need to change your leadership habits today to adapt to the new digitally open world."
- Digital Leader, page 2

Now. It’s something I do now. It’s everything I do. It’s every second. There is no time off from my personal stamp in the digital age. So many more people are influenced by my actions compared to when it was just the people I saw, wrote a paper letter to or called on the phone.  In this digital age, I am influencing people who don’t know me, people I didn’t even intend to. These people don’t know my humor, they don’t know my history and so don’t know why I said or wrote something. And it’s not just what I write, it’s pictures even if they’re from my personal life. Before digital we did let people at work see our personal lives – think pictures on your desk. But those pictures came along with a person, in person, to mitigate whatever they saw in the pictures.

Even if I choose not to be digital (close to impossible, but let’s assume I could not use email or the Web or social media) everyone I interact with may be posting about me (pictures and words).  There is no way around it so I have to adapt now, think every minute about what I’m doing and how it will be taken literally by the world or risk influencing people in a way I didn’t intend.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Remove to improve

"Your digital presence should be less ‘Chinese menu’ and more ‘lemonade stand’."
- Digital Leader, page 84

How many things have I waited to do because there were so many parts to something and I needed to have them all ready to go at the same time?  Example: I couldn’t put up our company Facebook page until I was ready to go with our Twitter account, LinkedIn page and our blog.  Let me see, was it 2 years in the making? I think so. What a waste.  And now that they all exist (plus our website and numerous other digital presences) I’m not doing justice to any of them. The digital habit of “Simple” tells me that I should have done only one (ok, maybe 2) and done it well.  So now my task is to figure out how to consolidate or do away with at least 3 of the 5 main digital presences. And then there’s my personal digital presences to contend with after that.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Success doesn't happen alone

"Don’t be afraid to distance yourself from a friend or customer that isn’t having a positive impact."
- Digital Leader, page 225

The insight and the quote seem to be at odds with each other.  My point exactly! I have been in a stage of my life the past 4 years where I have removed people – tired of their whining and complaining, tired of them being dependant on me for advice, for answers, for their success. Coincidentally I have also been stagnant (apparently it’s not so coincidental).  Just floating through the days trying rather haltingly to come up with a new definition of success since my old one (be on TV, the radio, in magazine articles and keynote speaking) doesn’t achieve the goals I now have.  I’ve been trying to find that new definition of success alone after I jettisoned clients, staff and people in my personal life that didn’t have my best interests or the company’s at heart. I purposely drew the circle small a few years ago.  In my desire to do this I also kept away the people who can have a positive impact.  I see now that whatever the new success is it’ll be in concert with others (a few). In fact, they will make it for me if only I participate.

Technology has redefined the nature of relationships. You can see that I’m pretty happy about this as I can use email and social media to not have to ever talk to anyone again.  Qualman suggests we look at our digital imprint each week by reading over emails and posts that relate to you.  He says that if you see the tone they create isn’t the one you intended you need to make changes immediately.  So as I look over a week’s worth of emails and posts I see me not really interacting with anyone, me holding people at arm’s length, in short me doing the opposite of most of the five digital leadership habits.  To stem the reeling feeling I’ll start with one tip in habit one (“Simple”) – focus around the things I can do 3x better than others.  What about you?

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Carolyn B. Thompson

ABOUT Carolyn B. Thompson

I’m proud to be a Renaissance Man – dog mom, singer, water skier, Christian, gardener, trainer, business owner, cook, baker, swimmer, reader, crafts, Christmas decorator, vegetable lover who eats fish & meat, mocha drinker, iced tea drinker, believer that chocolate desserts are a major food group, walker/runner, exerciser, movie watcher, writer, former work road warrior mainly to do conference keynotes & bookstores, 3 children in their mid-30s w/5 grandchildren under 6 yrs old.
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