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Connecting in an increasingly social world an essential skill for social leaders

This blog was written jointly by Claire Haigh and Julia Wolfendale from Collaborate Out Loud. Together they create social spaces for public service innovation.

We live in a social world, a world where we are surrounded by technology that allows us to communicate and connect like never before. Successful social leaders are able to authentically and skilfully use not just the digital tools at their fingertips, but to also bring people together to form communities that can make a difference in the places we live.

Making connections across boundaries is key for social leadership. Some of the formal constraints of traditional working literally get in the way. As we move towards widening our social connections across social media platforms, we are seeing the opportunity to include our ‘work allies and work friends’ into our real lives. What would happen if we truly brought our whole selves to work? Perhaps this could help us to transcend the boundaries of hierarchy and formal structures, sidestep silos and really connect around shared interests - inside and outside of work - through shared personal values and interest in mutual outcomes.

Is this a modern workplace dilemma? Have we been busy crafting a work persona that is so different to our real selves that we struggle to let people in and see who we really are, what we care about, and what we have to offer? Do we hold back our potential to connect fully with each other at work because of this? If we are working in public service, is it not important to show we have real lives too? Would this help build our affinity with the people we serve? Would this help develop the authenticity and credibility that is needed in leaders today?

We think so. We have been developing ways to help social leaders connect with who they really are as people first, and then around what skills, knowledge, connections, abilities and interests that they have to offer beyond the role and job description.

People naturally seek connections. We are hardwired to connect, although we might fight it at work and hide behind the work role, finding ourselves segregated in isolation, distanced by a fear of difference. With more transparency and authenticity in public service, we could develop greater empathy and rapport, and connect more wholly with others. We could unlock the potential of people in public services by connecting as people who live in a community who have chosen to serve a community.

Embracing difference, connecting across boundaries, seeking out the unusual suspects and having surprising conversations help us to innovate and collaborate better. If we want to truly innovate we need to collaborate not only with those around us who are our trusted friends, but with those who we don’t know, who are different and are removed from our inner circle. Why not just have a coffee with someone you don’t really know, or follow some new people on Twitter?

Please share your comments below, or join the conversation on Twitter.

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