There is a widely used saying that can be adapted for the specifics of the situation, and it ends with “…are people, too”. If you want to have some fun, just search “are people, too” and take a look at the results… Kids, hackers, even vampires are people, too.
But I would suggest at least one group that does not qualify as people, too: leaders. Oh, we’re people all right. We’re just not people, too.
Take social media for instance. We’ve all read threads on Facebook or other social media outlets that get our juices flowing, our passions inflamed, our nostrils flaring. What? How could he say that?! I’ll give him a piece of my mind.
DON’T DO IT, LEADERS!!!!!
We may be people, but we’re not just “people, too.”
Regular people get to comment on a social media site, and it’s just one comment among many. A leader comments on a social media site, and it becomes “Did you read what leader wrote? I never knew he believed…” (but that’s not what I meant!) “or that he is a…” (but I’m not!)
It reminds me of a pastor who told a road-rage story about herself. Another driver cut her off on the freeway. The pastor was so mad she sped up to give the driver the infamous one-finger salute. When the pastor pulled alongside the driver, she recognized the driver as a member of her church. Her one-finger salute quickly became a five-fingered wave.
The pastor took a deep breath, relieved that she had not acted on her impulse and that she had salvaged her credibility as a leader.
As leaders endeavoring to lead people to good outcomes, we must recognize that what we do or say is not only scrutinized but assigned certain meanings that we did not necessarily intend. Sometimes this cannot be avoided, but we would do well to recognize there are certain situations that make it more likely that what we say is not what people will hear.
Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to advise leaders to stay off social media sites. But I strongly recommend that we not view ourselves as just another person making a comment. In such situations, leaders are not people, too.
Speaking of leading well, I will be attending the upcoming LeaderSHIFT Conference 2015, collecting more nuggets of leadership wisdom from some of the best leaders in the world (literally). See you there!