HashtagTime is a limited resource for leaders. While many leaders are passionate about leader development, they don’t always have time to study for self-development or plan development sessions where participants sit around and discuss an article, book or other topic. Both avenues of development are easily disrupted by competing priorities. Social media and mobile technology platforms are great resources for leaders to interact with others and build relationships that will lead to learning and development. One platform that works well is Twitter. The capabilities of Twitter combined with mobile platforms allow both self-development and leader-led professional discussions to take place in any location, at any time, and not be restrained by time and location. This post is about using Twitter for self-development and leading professional discussions as part of a leader development program.

Twitter 101 (Skip ahead to Leader Development if you are familiar with PLNs, self-development and Twitter)
Twitter is one resource that leaders can use for learning by developing a Personal Learning Network (PLN). A PLN is an informal learning network that consists of the people a learner connects and interacts with for the purpose of learning. Learners create connections and develop a network that contributes to their professional development and knowledge(Click here for a good blog about PLNs) .The learner does not have to know these people personally or ever meet them in person. This network is relatively easy to set up over Twitter and is a simple and powerful way to both self-develop and develop others. Twitter can be a great source of information if you know how to search for and evaluate the sources. There is a wide variety of information available on Twitter; for example, almost every magazine or professional publication posts on Twitter.

People use the hashtag symbol # before a relevant keyword or phrase in their Tweet to categorize those tweets and help them show up more easily in Twitter Search. The learner simply searches for the topic or, if they know a hashtag associated with the subject, they can use that as the terms for the search (see screenshots below). For example, one of the screen shots below shows a search for “Land Warfare” and the results delivered range from various individuals to “Doctrine Man”, to ”Pakistan Defence”.

Search for Land Warfare on Twitter for iPad

Search for Land Warfare on Twitter for iPad

Search for #Leadership on Twitter for iPad

Search for #Leadership on Twitter for iPad

Search for #Innovation on Twitter for iPad

Search for #Innovation on Twitter for iPad

Once the results are delivered learners can sort through the posts and evaluate the information. Clicking on a hashtagged word in any message shows all the other tweets marked with that keyword. Many of these posts will have links to blogs or articles that contain information the learner is looking for. As the learner finds reliable posts, they can follow the user and build their PLN ( It is also interesting to see who the users you are following, follow as well.) One way to evaluate whether a user on Twitter is credible is by the number of follows and followers they have. Learners can also check out previous tweets by the source, which is another way to evaluate if the source is credible or not. The reporters and other contributors that work for most major news organizations post to Twitter as well and can be a good addition to a PLN.

Leader Development Program
Twitter is a great way to share information to develop others. Leaders connect with their subordinates over Twitter and share relevant content with a hashtag. Twitter can also be used for “Twitter Chats” . Twitter chats are chats that occur using a hashtag. Instead of tweeting one-on-one learners are now engaged in a conversation with many people around a particular topic or piece of content such as an article or blog post. Pictures and other media can be used as well to add more context to discussions. Twitter chats lets a group maximize their time on Twitter and participate in existing conversations when it is convenient for them. Twitter chats can take place over extended periods, and from any location, extending learning and development well beyond the walls of an office, building, or other location commonly used for these sessions. This capability lengthens the period of engagement and can lead to higher quality discussions, which might not be attainable in a normal face-to-face professional development session that is constrained by time and location (a leader development session scheduled from 1-2pm in a conference room). There are also tools available, like Storify for example, that can help learners manage and archive the chats for later reference. Through professional discussion, leaders can get to know their subordinates better and evaluate their level of competence, which can help build trust in an organization.

Leaders develop subordinates by creating experiences. Professional discussion is one of those experiences. It canimprove learning and leader development across an organization. When time is a limited resource, social media is an excellent and simple way to engage subordinates in professional discussion.

Leadership counts!

Posted by MAJ Jonathan Silk, USA in Army, Innovation
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  • Sperrwaffe

    Maybe I am totally missing the point here but this post is upsetting to me. Why so? My criticism will be very provocative. I apologize if anyone might be offended. And may be some of it may sound like a lecture. but when reading articles like these I think we should first of all return to the basics for everybody to remember. Especially for this topic because it’s about military personnel.

    Let’s start with this Twitter business:
    1.Twitter is a tool for a certain type of people. I really doubt that these might be leaders.
    2.Twitter is an open platform. No security at all.
    3. Twitter is a tool which does not allow deeper communication.
    4. Twitter is superficial. Something Leadership is definitely not!
    5. Twitter is a tool which is not good for language. It destroys the proper use of language and hinders abilities to really think.
    Leaders need to think!

    Leadership Development by using Twitter.
    First of all: Leadership is not a game, it is not a collection of tools. It is a state of mind.
    Before you are able to act like a leader you have to learn a lot. History, Services, Capabilities, Troops, Subordinates, etc.
    But before that you have to learn about yourself. Leadership is a philosophical and a psychological development. It all starts with yourself.
    And not all will become leaders. If its Officers, Senior NCO’s, NCO’s it doesn’t matter. No matter what you do, no matter what fancy tool you might find. Accept it. It is a natural thing. Leadership starts with yourself.

    And these steps are completely ignored by this article. It concentrates too much on the use of a tool instead of understanding the realities of leadership. Twitter may be a good way of sharing information but no matter what, this information stays superficial. No possibility of issuing deeper information needed by the subordinates in order to understand and execute their “Auftrag”. Twitter allows direct interaction. that’s fine. But at a certain stage leaders don’t need interaction. They must be followed. But they will not be followed because of their abilities to use fancy stuff, to spend their time with social media and friendly interaction. Or because of the numbers of followers on Twitter or Facebook. Leadership can be very offending sometimes. But that’s just background noise you have to accept. Currying Favours are not needed and are unsuitable for the evaluation of subordinates or discussion.
    Leaders are followed because of their holistic appearance. It starts with respect. Not with rank. “Leading by example.”

    “Leaders connect with their subordinates over Twitter and share relevant content with a hashtag”.
    No. Leaders interact personally with their subordinates by talking one on one. Leaders make themselves clear by being personally available for their subordinates. Leaders issue orders personally. Leaders spent a lot of their time FOR their subordinates. By creating a environment of trust and respect.
    And again, Twitter is OPEN. Absolutely unfitting for the military leader: OPSEC, volunteers… anyone…?

    A professional discussion can never be made by Twitter. A professional discussion needs more than these some 140 words, cryptic signs and cryptic phrasing only nerds seem to understand, links and so on.
    Professional discussions are a result of language and deeper interaction. Only then you create experiences.

    A personal point of view:
    “Cogito ergo sum = I think, therefore I am.”

    Leadership counts? The person behind it does! The Leader.
    Otherwise it’s just a empty shell (using bloody tools and never able to really make a difference).
    Just a “follower” of the main stream.
    Leaders are not the main stream. They are the lighthouse.

  • Guest

    This article was fantastic. I have read Duffel Blog for years but think this might be my favorite post you’ve ever put up.