Social media is having a sometimes profound impact on our lives. The advantages of being able to stay in touch with friends and family who may live great distances away are clear. Likewise, the frequent opportunity to offend people you know and those you have never met, to be misunderstood or to misstep are likely familiar to us all.

Add the complexity of attempting dialogue about professional issues and the dynamics immediately become not only complex, but perhaps mind-boggling. Moreover, the new challenges to being a leader in the age of social media may seem like the difference between hiking up a hill and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Whether you hold a formal leadership role as a paid employee, are a volunteer leader, or simply are seeking to be influential in your profession, leading in the age of social media has become a whole lot more complex.

My personal experience has been varied. Participation in various forums have provided me with a range of new opportunities. I’ve been able to connect with colleagues within occupational therapy and other professions that I might never encountered in a “pre-Facebook” age. Formats like OTConnections have facilitated thoughtful communication and the sharing of information, perspectives, strategies and resources in ways that have been invaluable. However, experiences in some of these same formats have left some scars and have led me to become increasingly intentional about my participation.

One particular dynamic of social media participation is that you can have individuals with widely different expectations about the norms of communication. What is simply ‘rough edges,’ humor or well-intended sarcasm to some can be perceived as highly aggressive, offensive and unprofessional to others. Add the aspects of some level of anonymity and the perils of any form of electronic communication (e.g. not being able to read body cues or paralinguistic elements of communication) and you have a potential powder keg.

I was pleased that a Google search for “Leadership in the Age of Social Media” yielded immediate results. I am starting to read and will share resources and learning as they come across my plate. If anyone reading has resources to share, I would be most grateful.

Here is a link to one article I found and read with interest from Army University Press related to “Leadership in the Social Media Age” in the military.