August 27, 2012

My summer reading has not only included mystery and thriller best sellers. While there are plenty of those books with sand between the pages, I have also enjoyed the luxury of reading multiple newspapers a day.

One particular article that grabbed my attention was Thomas L. Friedman’s The Rise of Popularism in late June. Some of you may know him as the Op-ed columnist of the New York Times (the source of this article) and you may also be a fan of his books, including The World is Flat and That Used to Be Us.

Friedman hooked me when he wrote that one learning from his summer London visit was the term “Popularism”. He defines popularism as “following the people” on the polls, blogs, Twitter and Facebook postings.  Friedman appreciates the value of the enhanced participation, innovation and transparency this crowdsourcing of information brings.

Yet he asks, “But can there be such a thing as too much participation – leaders listening to so many voices all the time and tracking the trends that they become prisoners of them?”

And this is where Friedman reels me in – he brings another well-known thought-leader to the conversation. He quotes Dov Seidman, author of the book How, who says “nothing inspires people more than the truth”.  Seidman goes on to explain, “When you are anchored in shared truth, you start to solve problems together.  It’s the beginning of coming up with a better path”.

It is this “shared truth” that helps us see possibility as leaders.  Facing the facts and acknowledging them gives us the launching pad for creating new solutions.  Friedman appropriately warns us that gathering everyone’s opinion and hearing everyone’s immediate and reflexive thoughts may not be the same as perceiving a shared truth that can be the foundation of true leadership.

How does this world of constant and immediate Twitter, Facebook, polls, and blog postings drive our skills at “following”? Are we using these tools to grow our “shared truth” and hence our leadership? Could we?