In mainstream thinking, managers are understood as the prime originators of what happens in their businesses. The central concern is how the active manager/subject gets the passive follower/object to act in ways that reflect the manager’s perspective. Management continues to see communication in terms of influence and manipulation.
The social business view sees relations and communication as conversational processes of meaning making. It is a movement of thought on the basis of multiple perspectives that you invite or you pull. A person, when networking, would be subscribing to contextually relevant topics and people. Push transforms to pull.
Interaction starts with recognition. It is about granting attention to people and information and making room for them in our lives. Leading and following in the traditional corporate sense have seen the leader making people follow him through motivation and rewards. The leader also decided who the followers should be.
When seen through the logic of social business and social tools, leading and following have a very different dynamic. Leading in this new business sense is not position-based, but recognition-based. People, the followers, decide who to follow and what topics to follow. You pull information from someone you trust to be at the forefront in an area, which is temporarily meaningful for you.
Another huge difference from traditional management thinking is that because of the diversity of contexts people link to, there can never be just one source of information. Thus, an individual always has many topics and people that she follows. You might even claim that from the point of view taken here, it is highly problematic if a person only has one “leader”. It would mean attention blindness as a default state.
Pull communication is at best a process of active following, creative learning through observing and simulating desired practices. Leading on the other hand, is doing one’s work in a transparent, inspiring and reflective way.
Thank you John Hagel, Stowe Boyd and Stephen Downes
More on the subject: Stowe Boyd.