Elisabeth, Catherine and George were all excellent communicators, outstanding in fact, considering the times in which they lived. If their inclination to network and communicate is any indication as to how they might thrive in Social Media today, I believe they would all embrace it passionately, and adapt to the challenges of Leadership in a Modern world.
I am of course referring to Queen Elisabeth the First of England, Empress Catherine the Great of Russia, and George, as in George Washington, the founding father. Each one of these leaders was a proficient (and prolific) letter writer, and much of their correspondence is preserved in museum archives or books (fortunately or unfortunately for them).
QE1 Elisabeth was a networker, a communicator and a linguist, speaking five languages; and is much admired as a very effective leader, particularly functioning in the chauvinistic world of 16th century England. Even today we can learn from her as a leader. She was passionate about exploration, which amongst other things resulted in the establishment of colonies in the Americas. She had a global vision, at a time when communication to geographically remote areas of the world, if it happened at all, could take a year or longer!
I suspect that today Elisabeth would be building online communities based on eCommerce in many different global cultures. Reinterpreting her exploration passions from the 16th century into one for eCommerce 2013, where she leverages Social Media platforms for her particular product or customer audiences. Elisabeth’s eCommerce global business of today would be an online brand with strong elements of both Sara Blakely’s sexy Spanx brand, and Jeff Bezos’s ever-growing Amazon sales channel!
Empress Catherine networked and communicated with many of her contemporary heads of state, some of who were placed in their powerful positions by her; either overtly or covertly! She also had a lively 15-year correspondence with French philosopher/writer Voltaire, even though they never met in real life! She was fascinated by different government and leadership philosophies, implementing key reforms in Russia herself, modernizing and westernizing Russia, and laying many of the foundations for Russia’s future power.
So where would we find Catherine online today? What would her focus be? Would it still be leadership models? I see Catherine engaging in an online leadership community and perhaps organizing a 24-hour online global leadership conference on navigating the potholes of the future in business and government; crowdsourcing the speakers on Listly. She would be a natural to make use of social media platforms to accomplish her goals; using the power of Listly to build the community, spearhead a global online conference, and network strategically with other global leaders.
George Washington was obsessed with transparency (‘I must not tell a lie’) in all his personal and business dealings, and it seems also in his letters, some of which did fall into enemy hands, to his detriment. He was admired for his charisma, and was able to inspire his followers to ‘stick with it’ even when the odds were perceived as against them. He was genuinely interested in people and was known to strike up a conversation with just about anyone! He was however, a strategist rather than a tactician, which unfortunately lost him some battles; however, he did ultimately win the war!
So what would George be doing with Social Media? Maybe not politics, considering his transparency issues, although he likely would have appreciated the speed with which he could have reached his target audience proposing independence from the British crown
Would George choose twitter or Facebook to accommodate his networking strategies? Would he be spearheading movements like Occupy WallStreet using social media tools to pull a community together with a social cause?
Does creating a blogging platform seem like a good bet for George? He was passionate about farming, and discovering and trying out innovative farming methods. I see George in high gear writing for his own agricultural blog, helping farmers fight high costs and low selling prices, offering innovative farming solutions, even computerized equipment, innovative soil testing, and modern non-invasive fertilizers
George was passionate about fiscal fairness, and when it came to fiscal management he was a stickler for having a solid monetary foundation. When he became president, the country was in debt in excess of $75M (40% of gross domestic product ~ does that sound familiar?) His solution? In those early years the debt was (relatively efficiently) eliminated by both unpopular tariffs, and taxes. How would George solve our deficit today? Would he be a blogging economist… remember he often took up causes against all odds. That sounds too much like work, so what else do you think George would be doing online today?
Social Media does not a leader make, however the social platforms, if used to network strategically, can amplify and enhance your leadership message; so pick the best social platforms to engage with your audience!
What other leaders in History would do well today, embracing technology and Social Media and also adapt well to the challenges of leading in the modern world?