Social leadership needed to be relearnt during this pandemic. Aliyyah-Begum Nasser, the Operations Director of Askham Village Community talks about the challenges of this period in terms of social leadership.


I feel like a proud parent. I have just watched a video that one of my team posted to our entire company sharing her joy at being able to come back into the office. In her words she’s super excited about just being able to print! The message of the video however was far deeper. It was a message filled with emotion. The fact that she chose to share her joy with colleagues over a video posted on our staff group chat showed true social leadership.

Ask me 3 months ago and I wouldn’t have known what social leadership was. Now it seems to be a required skill for anyone in a team! The textbook definition is that it’s the practice of using digital tools to influence people (thank you Yapster for an education in this – there’s a three-part framework and everything!). I don’t think I would have known to label it as such, but for us this has been about figuring out how to be there without being present. Being available for our teams. Showing empathy. Providing support. Enabling input. Everything we would normally do simply by being present and talking to each other. At Askham cultivating social leadership amongst our senior team has been so important to continue to behave as the community that we are. Managing remotely is one thing (anyone can send an email with a to do list on it) but leading from afar – that’s the hard part.

So what have I learnt?

  • Don’t write a script. The first video I posted I had a script and I must have done about fourteen attempts. I reviewed it with my husband. I watched it back (cringe) before posting… But then I realised… you can’t be authentic that way. One recording. Done. Just like in real life – there is no re-record opportunity.
  • Turn the phone sideways and look at the camera not the screen. It really does make a difference. If you look at the screen it’s like you’re talking to someone’s ear or over their shoulder. Took me a while to figure this out!
  • Some people are naturals. As with most leadership qualities – some people just have it while others have to learn it. I needed to learn it but I have seen social leadership emerging from across all levels of our organisation – unprompted, from people who previously would have been far less engaged. Posting, reacting, sharing… brilliant!

I see it as my job to find the best way to connect with every individual I work with. Even when we are allowed to be in close proximity to each other, there will continue to be situations in which colleagues will engage better with a connection made through the device in their hand than anything else. Thanks to this lockdown, we’ve discovered the value of social leadership… now on to embedding it!