Book review with a prize: «The Social Leadership Handbook Second Edition»

A gentle book about learning and leading in a constantly changing world.

Read and reviewed by Kari Olstad

This book was read with the intention of investigating the connection between social leadership and education. The author is Julian Stodd, writer, speaker and founder of Sea Salt Learning, who will be closing the conference on the 23rd.

The book is divided into three parts. The first is called “The social age”. It is mapping out the world we live in, a changing map. And I would call it a normative as well as descriptive map.

Stodd writes: “Learning is extended and expanded as it moves beyond the purely classroom-based environment and into performance support and real-world application. In this context learning is more owned by the individual and highly portable. (…) Social learning can be viewed as the semi-formal layers that surround the formal. (…) In this context the role of the social leader is based on facilitation, mentoring and coaching rather than grounded in knowledge and formal hierarchy, both of which have diminishing status.” (p.17) which maybe best explains the connection between the teacher in a formal learning situation and the leader of a team or organisation.

Part two is the most extensive. It explains and exemplifies the basic model of the book; the NET-model. The N is for Narrative, E is Engagement and T is Technology.

Together they represent a map for how to navigate the social, cooperative and collaborative spaces that exist because of the technology (Stodd has actually drawn a map in the book too) so that we earn a reputation that supports an authority that enables us to influence others. I do believe this can be a useful tool for educators.

Stodd is referring to the modern communicational and cooperative leader style as #WorkingOutLoud. Of which follows that the leader or teacher should facilitate for #LearningOutLoud (I did not know these hashtags, but I enjoyed investigating them).

Part three of the book is simply called “Application”. In short it is many of the theories and the solutions from the two first parts, but this time aimed more at the actions of the leaders and the organisations.

Stodd is not trying to dismiss formal structures, he simply says there is an informal world that dips into the formal, and we need to learn how to navigate it. If we agree with Stodd that the organisations cannot own the conversations, they no longer own the technology because it has been democratized and highly accessible, then “something” must replace control. And if this is true for organisations it must be true for education. Because the technology is equally accessible to students. The leadership in education and other organisations must be built not only on formal authority, but on earned reputation and trust, based upon humility, kindness and fairness.

Flexible Education Norway released a guide for online tutors this winter. We are trying to keep an eye on trends and developments in education, especially online education. Learners collaborating outside the formal learning rooms, taking on the curating and tutoring role; the relaxed approach to education in MOOCs and On Demand Learning on the job are some of the trends we see and that implies a changed learning style. Which again calls for a changed leader style. Or tuition style. Which this book can provide a basis for.

Having said that, “The Social Leadership Handbook” is still probably more for the average leader than the average teacher, but the average teacher will be able to connect the dots.

The book is very accessible with mind maps and models in Stodds’ characteristic style on. It could even be shorter, because there is some overlapping between the chapters which works well for the “dipping-in-reader” but seems a little redundant to the “from-beginning-to end-reader. At least the message is reinforced, and Stodd tries to do this in a not too intrusive way. In many ways it is a gentle and respectful book. Except from for the adult eyes. The fonts and colours in the printed version of the book are pretty, but required my best reading glasses and good lighting.

I am going to read the book again, so I am keeping my copy, but Stodd is giving away a free copy to a random attendee on the conference. Register before the evening on September the 15th, and we will draw a winner among the “early birds”. The book is also available on Amazon and iTunes.



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