Platform Agnostic Leadership

Posted 06.22.2009

Iran1 The protests over the elections in Iran present one of those rare instances when you know in the moment you’re watching history being made. The courage and dreams of the Iranians in the streets demanding democracy are inspiring.

As many have commented, one of the fascinating aspects of the protests is the use of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook as organizing tools for the leaders of the movement.  What’s equally interesting to me is the debate that’s emerging over the use of the tools and what it means for the future. In an opinion piece in the Washington Post called, “Reading Twitter in Tehran,” the authors write:

“Twitter's own internal architecture puts limits on political activism. There are so many messages streaming through at any moment that any single entry is unlikely to break through the din, and the limit of 140 characters — part of the service's charm and the secret of its success — militates against sustained argument and nuance.”

This strikes me as a pretty good example of missing the point. No one has said that Twitter is a substitute for reasoned argument. In the case of Iran, it’s a tool (one of the few available) for disseminating raw news and for leaders who want to organize their followers. The people using the tools don’t care about the pros and cons of the platform, they just care that it works. They’re platform agnostic leaders.

This morning, I read on social media guru Chris Brogan’s blog about a new service in alpha testing called Babel With Me. This site connects with Twitter, Facebook or e-mail to allow users around the world to have real time conversation with simultaneous translation in 45 languages. That sound you just heard was one more example of how quickly the world is shrinking. 

The implications for leaders are astounding. The tools or platforms that leaders use to organize their followers are changing faster than most of us can process. The opportunity is to engage followers in a way that encourages their participation and their own capacity to lead themselves. The challenge for leaders will be to maintain strategic perspective and direction in a world where the masses can organize themselves so quickly and effectively.

Those are just two observations about the nature of leadership in a platform agnostic age. What are yours?