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We or Me – It’s Up to You

by  Jane Perdue  |  Self Leadership

Social media, as with most things in life, can be exploited for personal gain or maximized as a tool for sharing, giving and inspiring others to live to their biggest and best potential.

Are you in it to win it – for yourself, or for others?

It’s that simple, and that complicated.

At one end of the continuum is the me-focused view depicted by publicist and author Mitch Joel in a provocative post, Confessions of a Narcissist:

“…the true destination for most of our online endeavors really are the new media equivalent of the biblical statues that were presented as deities. These digital shrines that we create to ourselves. The photos are almost as unrealistic as our expectations that we’ll get some semblance of happiness from all of these digital ego boosts that we live in.

At the other we-focused end is Dr. Jack King’s Northfork Center for Servant Leadership where the goal is:

“…helping our neighbors (communities and organizations, large and small) advance noble causes for peace and freedom in every corner of the globe.”

Where you park on that continuum is your choice.

If your leadership journey involves authentically connecting with and developing others, getting that right depends on getting you right.

Getting you right requires self-awareness and self-confidence.  I think it also includes a Google Alert or two – effective ways to keep tabs on your marketing and promotional efforts.  It’s self-absorbed only if your sense of self-worth goes into a tailspin if the tallies aren’t sufficiently robust. Sharing information about who you are and what you do builds credibility, a cornerstone of trust (provided it’s trust you’re seeking, not adulation.)

Social media engagement is narcissistic if your intentions are me-centered…and stop there.  If your intentions are we-centered, social media is an incredible instrument for making a positive difference.

And what’s really cool is that it’s all up to you.

© Adnan Music – Fotolia.com

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About The Author

Articles By jane-perdue
Jane is a leadership futurist and well-mannered maverick who challenges stereotypes, sacred cows, gender bias & how we think about power. She loves chocolate, TED, writing, kindness, paradox and shoes.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Tristan Bishop  |  01 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Thank you, Jane. Your words are like a long look in a clear mirror. From my youth, I’ve longed to BE “someone”, so that I could DO something about all that ails. But as the “becoming” flies by, the temptation of ego tugs like a tractor beam. A reminder like this is refreshing, life-giving and decidedly welcome.

Jane Perdue  |  01 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Tristan – you’re obviously already an emotionally intelligent leader who maximizes self-awareness! Being open to those periodic bouts of introspection make all the difference in whether or not we’re effective as real leaders, as Susan Mazza would say!

Susan Mazza  |  04 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Beautifully (and eloquently) said Tristan!

Tara R. Alemany  |  01 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Hi, Jane.

Great post! When I read Mitch Joel’s blog earlier this week, I was sadden by the condition he found himself in. It is reasonable to fall into the trap of narcissism if what we do each and every day is focus on ourselves; if we only have the time to respond to social media that’s directed specifically to us; if we are continually broadcasting “our message.”

But as I often tell my clients, “social” media is about being *social.* If you walk into a room where there are various groups of people talking and interject yourself into conversations which you invariably steer towards being all about you, your popularity won’t last long. Being social is a two-way street. It’s about listening to what others have to say, and then sharing your thoughts and insights while valuing those of others around you. You don’t have to agree with what everyone says. But when you disagree, show respect and clarity of thought, or respectfully bow out of the conversation.

As character-based leaders, our focus isn’t on accomplishing a specific task or fulfilling assigned quotas. It’s on equipping our organization, clients, colleagues and fellow leaders so that they can do the things they do best. It’s on building them up, offering course corrections and sanity checks where needed, and allowing them to experience the satisfaction of a job well done. Someone tweeted earlier this week about how good leaders take more credit than their share then things go wrong, and less credit than their fair share when they go right. The same thing applies to social media. We’re here to help one another, building one another up, helping us each reach our individual goals. We’re filling a vacuum that many corporations have left behind by undervaluing their leaders.

If I use a Google alert or search regularly on my brand and name, it can be viewed as much as a humility check and an accountability check as a vanity check. It all depends on our heart motive and our perspective. Am I “checking myself out in the mirror” to make sure I’m properly put together (shirt’s buttoned straight and tucked in, not missing an earring, etc.) or because I’m so enamored of my reflection that nothing else matters? When people truly do approach things from a narcissistic viewpoint, it’s readily apparent and most people choose “not to play that game.”

Jane Perdue  |  01 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Tara – what excellent observations you make about how we choose to present ourselves whether inperson or on social media! As you point out, it’s all about where we choose to direct our lives, as Kofi Annan says: “To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.” Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

Deborah Costello  |  01 Sep 2010  |  Reply

I love the idea of taking stock in the most objective way possible, and this is sometimes difficult. All of us are trying to live our lives with purpose, in essence to be someone. The questions remain. What do you want to be, for whom are you trying to be this, and what are you willing to do in order to be? And the of course that final step, what will you do if you actually are what you long to be? That long look in the mirror should help clarify these for each of us.

Thank you for your continued thoughts, Jane :)

Jane Perdue  |  01 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Deb – you are so right that introspection is necessary yet challenging and that living a purposeful life is the bottom line for our existence. I’m in a quote frame of mind, prompted by the questions you note we need to ask ourselves: “The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give your gift away.” ~David Viscott. Thanks much for your thoughtful insights!

Kevin W. Grossman  |  01 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Jane, to be simply honest it’s both for me (we-centered as you put it). I’m all about transparency, authenticity and being “me” and won’t be apologetic about the fact that I use social media for personal branding and marketing and networking — but I also share valuable content from others in leadership, marketing and business, and I generate awareness about causes close to my heart like domestic violence and violence against women prevention. And parenting quips being a father of two girls.

;)

Jane Perdue  |  01 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Kevin – I so enjoy your parenting quips! Checking your social media stats, and using the medium to promote your business, doesn’t make you me-centered in my view. Just a smart businessperson.

Erin Schreyer  |  01 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Jane, you ARE the HR Goddess!! What I love most about your post is that you’re not encouraging a style that looks a particular way. Instead, you encourage people to be AUTHENTIC!!!

This is SO important in social media. Just as in leadership, you simply can’t fake your way through. At some point, you WILL get caught in an inconsistency!

That said, I do hope that people choose to be more giving and generous than ego-centric. So many people are able to learn and be encouraged by the Twitterverse. Let’s keep building that momentum!!!

Thanks for your contributions, Jane! I always learn something valuable!!

Jane Perdue  |  02 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Erin – you are the strength and wisdom goddess! The simple, complicated beauty of life, leadership, social media, etc. is that we DO get to choose. You can hope that people select the altuistic path, seeking to make a positive difference; but if they don’t, well, they don’t! Love the opportunity to share and learn with YOU!

Souzi  |  02 Sep 2010  |  Reply

I think social media has taken us all by whirlwind and it won’t stop. I also think that generational differences may come into great play here. Millenials are obsessed with FB & Twitter, and those each have their benefits, but it becomes insane when a person feels the need to share everything that happens in their daily life! The Harvard Business article put it beautifully by stating that narrating your entire life is “narcissistic clutter”. (awesome read btw, http://bit.ly/d4kcYg) Let’s face it, not every part of life is that interesting, but it does seem that younger generations believe that all they do throughout a normal day is actually interesting. I see this with my younger cousin who seems to document every action via FB statuses…to the point where I had to block him.

I think there is a fine line between the selfish sharing versus the ‘we’ mentality and people need to be aware of not only their intentions, but also the consequences. What you share with others is out in the virtual world for all to see, including potential & current employers. As web 2.0 takes organizations by storm, all levels in an organization will be checking each other out…Do you really want your boss or hiring managers to see what your status updates us? That’s the question we should all ask before sharing and baring it all!

Emotional intelligence is the only way a person can get themselves right…but I think it’s difficult for individuals to do because it requires shining an honest mirror at YOUr own face…seems that these days, people have mirrors & lights shining on them, this is where the narcissistic behavior stems, but clearer those are funny mirrors that make it all look good.

Jane Perdue  |  02 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Souzi – you’re right that social media presents us with new communication opportunities like sharing that you’ve had a chicken salad sandwich for lunch or just completed a workout at the gym. The EI fine line element comes into play with the question of value add. A 2009 study by Career Builder reported that 45% of employers did check social networks as part of their employment process, so the counsel you’re providing is spot-on. Good stuff — thanks for sharing!

Thomas McDaniels  |  02 Sep 2010  |  Reply

This is a great post. I think all of us need a reminder of why we are doing, what we are doing. Keep up the good work.

Jane Perdue  |  03 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Thomas – thanks for stopping by and sharing such kind words!

Jack King  |  04 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Jane, thank you for sharing such a great post! Your kindness in mentioning the seminal work of NorthFork is encouraging, deeply humbling, and so very much appreciated.

As I read your post, I couldn’t help but think life is a matter of the heart. The moment we make it something else, its graceful lines become rigid. The same thing, I believe, holds true for social media. Archimedes said, “Give me where to stand, and I will move the earth.” Social media is that place, or at least it can be. What matters, of course, like you and others have so eloquently stated, is our intent. We have choices; it truly is up to us. Where leadership and social media converge is in our desire and ability to participate. Through social media, we can leverage the world (e.g., ‘move the earth’) to serve another’s need, to lift them to new heights, to put them within reach of their own dreams. Through social media, we can be helpful. We can find the things worth doing, and do them. Through social media, we can empower, we can equip, we can meet others where they are and, while, there, we can make a positive difference in the life of one, or in the life of many. Either way, we become the change we want to see. We become visible. In so doing, we begin to develop trust, to build relationships, and to strengthen communities, great and small. In short, we begin to lead, and to do so with love.

Jane Perdue  |  07 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Jack – your post could be/should be required reading for anyone seeking to be a leader who values relationships as well as results. I love your phrase that “life is a matter of the heart.” Too often that simple truism is forgotten as we get single-minded in our pursuit of success defined as things, titles and gotcha’s. Smiles and hugs!

Susan Mazza  |  04 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Thanks for the great food for thought Jane. You provide a great nudge to awareness and reminder to check in with ourselves (I.e. myself!): are my actions matching my true intentions and commitments?

I also think a lot of people fail to effectively promote themselves for fear of occurring narcicistic. So we also need to be mindful of not letting that fear stop us from stepping up and stepping out. At some point we have to trust ourselves. Some people will see the authenticity of our intentions, and some may not. As you put it, success begins with you getting things right with you.

And some will not like what we stand for. Great people with noble intentions are challenged every day. The bigger the stand and the more public the presence, often the more “brutal” the attacks can be. If we cannot stand strong in our own intentions we will never be able to leverage the opportunity of social media to exponentiate the difference we can make in the world.

Jane Perdue  |  07 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Susan – your point about not being understood and/or challenged for being different is excellent. The power to conform is mighty, yet those with “noble intentions” must “trust themselves” and forge ahead with their message and action.

It’s almost as if you’re peering into my mind with your comment. I had a fascinating exchange with a gentleman who chided me and my blog for addressing feelings and emotion — which are not business topics by his definition of business. That’s just another continuum where we can choose where we want to be…and use social media to spread our message.

Thanks much for your excellent-as-always insights!

Kristen  |  07 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Jane –
In my other life (@dineanddish) I recently wrote a blog post very similar to this, however outside of the business / leadership realm. I see value in both the me and the we side of things, however, I think there is a way to mix both together and still come out successful. I’d rather be at the top of the mountain with a group of people who came along with me than all alone. It is so important to build each other up and to support each other.

Loved this post…

Jane Perdue  |  07 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Kristen – thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on balancing we and me. Thoughtful self-care is so very different from narcissistic self-love. The first puts you at that mountain top surrounded by good folks; the second leaves you there all alone.

Chad Balthrop  |  07 Sep 2010  |  Reply

Hey Jane,

Great post. What’s the old cliche? A leader without followers is simply someone taking a walk. Genuine leadership has always been about moving people from where they are to where they could be. By design that process is collaborative and cooperative. If you want to lead you have to meet people where they are, connect with their interests, speak their language, engage their culture and ignite their imagination. In the end a ‘leader’ alone isnt really leading. It takes a group to identify a leader. Today’s social media is the meeting place for the masses. The things that draw a leader out of a crowd in ‘real life’ are the same things that draw them out online. A visionary idea from a passionate, committed and capable person will attract the attention of others and ultimately set a group on it’s course under the guidance of a leader the group has learned to trusts. In the end that is both me and we. The goal isn’t narcissism or altruism. The goal is to fulfill the vision and stretch everyone involved beyond anything they could have ever accomplished on their own.

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