Why social media and the hunt for Likes and approval is likely to derail future leaders
If you were to ask past leaders in our industry—or any industry for that matter—most are likely to agree that hunting for approvals in an echo chamber is a trap. So how do you coach a new generation of leaders that are growing up in a world where social media reigns?
Future leaders do not need to be “liked” or garner approval as their strongest talents—they need to hone their skills as learners, influencers, and debaters of value. I am not sure that social media does any of that for most of its participants. Can you really learn anything from tracking manipulated, advertised opinions and Likes via social media today? How do we push our leaders to ensure that they are building the talents and drive to build learning organizations and voices that can inspire all of us to benefit?
Being a lifetime student does not come from being agreed with, it comes from the challenges of opposing viewpoints and then creatively learning to reconcile that dissent. When you are fearful of rejection, you will insulate yourself and your beliefs and ideas to the point that learning stops and talents wither. But this is not a new problem; we see it in organizations that do not share their business plans with members, who no longer believe the market cares about their hopes for cooperative ownership, and who have shifted to the idea that consumer acceptance and Likes about the nuances of today’s financial service tactics are more important than what separates us from look-alike-competitors who sell the same nuances.
While the term “echo chamber” may be approaching overuse, it is one that the credit union industry should recognize as not a new problem. As the agents of our credit union member-owners, we have created our professional and third-party commentator echo chambers since the first day we pushed our volunteers out of the operations. The CUNA system, the regulatory system, and other vendor organizations have isolated our conversations and taught us to accept the status quo limits of our influence and debate. We hunted for acceptance and the positive feedback of like-thinkers-like-relationships for decades until we accepted the doctrine of our credit union industry to be worth its weight on our entrepreneurial hopes or innovative thrust towards member-owner potential.
So, we do need to guard ourselves from accepting and pushing our future leaders into an even bigger acceptance of the social media echo chambers that are too consumer-focused and manipulated by network managers way beyond our control or influence. We need to encourage future leaders to think critically, hunt out dissent, and look for the teachings that come from debate and alternate ideas. We need them to hone their skills at negotiating with ideas counter to their own and influence the future from what they learn.
We need to highlight where we fell victim to wanting the Likes of the NCUA, the molds of our trades, and the limited scope of our agreements with each other, and challenge them to debate and learn from the energy of disagreement on the way to new ideas implemented. Tell Me Why I’m Wrong.