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Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Sally Blount
Scholar

Sally Blount

Sally Blount is dean of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. An internationally recognized expert in the fields of negotiation and behavioral decision-making, she has more than 20 years of experience in higher education.

Making social media stick

Question: Through the effective use of online social media, a small group of political amateurs were able to organize and instigate street demonstrations across Egypt that now threaten to topple the Mubarak regime. How does their success change our notions of what leadership in the Internet age is all about?

For me, recent events in Egypt reinforce a lesson that I believe we have also begun to see evidence of in our national elections. Social media can contagiously motivate decisive, collective action over relatively short periods of time--types of action that may not have been humanly possible without the real-time, networked benefits of the Internet.

In that sense, the events in Egypt do demonstrate a new form of distributed leadership that was not possible ever before. But, that said, this evidence does not negate the basic tenets of more traditional forms of leadership. The challenge of these new forms of leadership becomes translating socially contagious, short-term zeal into a long-term commitment toward shared action. That type of long-term commitment requires more traditional forms of human organizing--organizations comprising more formal systems and structures, organizations that are subject to more of the traditional features and foibles of human leadership.

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By Sally Blount

 |  February 8, 2011; 10:11 AM ET
Category:  Pop culture Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: The Internet has turned leadership upside down | Next: The blessing and curse of social media

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The need for traditional forms of leadership is evident in situations that require long-term solutions, but I would argue that often the amount of change that can occur within a short period of time is enough to be considered significant. While it may take a strong, traditional leader to restore order in Egypt, the current chaotic state of the country seems to serve as an example of how quickly things can escalate in today's world. Looking back in history, uprisings such as the American Revolution were years in the making, which can be attested to the lack of communication between the different American colonies. The ability of leaders to utilize facebook, twitter, and various social networking sites has enabled them to gather a following at a much faster rate. As a result, younger, passionate leaders are arising as they have the capacity to draw the largest crowds.
It will be interesting to note how this new form of leadership plays out in Egypt. Will it be a young passionate leader who emerges to take control of the country? Or will a traditional, experienced leader take charge?

Posted by: paulgabraham | February 10, 2011 6:37 PM
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