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Translating Social Media Schizophrenia into Leadership Authenticity


Managing multiple social media profiles is like a complicated one-person show with thousands of actively engaged spectators. They snap, follow, like, re-Vine and share the dots plotted along your life’s literal and metaphorical timelines. The lived social media experience is like an asynchronous flash mob in which you portray multiple roles in various scenes. However, successfully conquering your cyber schizophrenia is a great exercise in increasing self-awareness and developing behavioral agility. Both are keys to mastering your leadership authenticity.

Increased Self-Awareness

The personalities you share in cyberspace are carved from the same whole. Your awareness of those individualities helps you to maximize your exposure. Imagine you are a vocalist who shares your music with the world through tweets. You follow singers. You re-tweet industry commentary. On IG, your persona posts tasteless jokes you would never share in person. Your #IGNation is full of comedians, actors, and writers. Both versions of your cyber self can access people, organizations, connections, and resources that your in-person self could not. The fantasy of social media opens a gateway through which you share personality traits that are otherwise suppressed. The separate images you create are simultaneously dependent upon and fueled by how and why you engage with others through this medium.[i]

Leading authentically also requires an elevated level of self-awareness. Multiple leadership responsibilities depict how you approach situations and people. Your leadership persona reflects a collection of leadership considerations and experiences. Some shape your dominant leadership stance. Your other leadership behaviors are triggered by dynamic interactions with a battalion of superiors, followers, and peers. Yet leading authentically requires mastering each leadership personality just as you master your social media characters. You develop a heightened sense of self-awareness that enables you to connect with the appropriate inner leader for each context.

Behavioral Agility

Living in the social media matrix allows participants to flow effortlessly between each manifestation of online personality and reality. Multiple cyber identities create an ongoing connection to multiple authentic expressions of self that exist concurrently and constantly. [ii] Users can simultaneously portray an artist on Twitter, a comedian on Instagram, and a director on LinkedIn. These characters exist on a continuum of self-expression that encompasses each natural disposition and alter ego. The user transitions between them with ease.

Leading authentically requires a similar exertion of behavior agility. All leaders carry an arsenal of leadership personas. A heightened sense of self-awareness allows authentic leaders a degree of nimbleness between their various leadership personas. Leaders can readily display dominant or dormant leadership characteristics. Leaders can easily flow between the classic situational leadership styles of delegating, supporting, directing, and coaching. Similarly to social media behavior, this agility allows leaders to operate across a continuum of actions that capture the multifaceted development of leadership acumen.

Proper cyber multitasking is a gateway to leadership prowess. Managing these identities well propels a stronger sense of self-awareness and behavioral agility. Both skill sets are keys to leadership authenticity.

[i] Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review, 98, 224-253

[ii] Davis, J. (2014). Triangulating the self: Identity processes in a connected era. Symbolic Interaction, 37(4), 500-523.

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