Sunday, December 7, 2014

"Thought Leaders"

I’ve made fun of LinkedIn’s “thought leadership” before, but I’m wondering now if maybe it’s indicative of a serious condition.

I recently ran across a LinkedIn post (it was actually months old when I discovered it) but it intrigued me to the point that I started looking back at some of the 7500 comments it generated.

The subject was why the author doesn’t accept “connections” to his network. If you don’t know LinkedIn, LinkedIn encourages people to connect with other people to expand their business networks, and provides a mechanism for doing that with one click of a mouse. You could say “connecting” is the definition of what LinkedIn is.

The gist of the article was that the author was selective about whose requests for connection he accepted. People do abuse the system and many requests for connection are really attempts to sell you something.  

That said -- the article adopted the most arrogant tone imaginable, the author in effect laying out a list of reasons why most people aren’t good enough to associate with him. I reserve judgement on whether he’s just tone deaf (some people don’t realize how they sound in writing) or if he’s really as arrogant as his writing says he is.

The real point of my writing about this, though, is the reaction from people who read it. It generated  7500 comments, and almost every one said the article was terrific. The mind boggles. One of his criteria for refusing a connection was lack of a photo on the applicant’s profile page. “You aren’t a real person if you haven’t posted a photo.” Yet dozens of people with no photo on their profile page congratulated him on the article. Come on, folks; recognize when you’re being insulted.

The fact is, the article is insulting to everyone. If you want to connect with him, for whatever reason, if you don’t meet his stringent specs, don’t bother to apply. Bad enough from someone who is apparently a successful businessman; but here are aspiring entrepreneurs and wannabe tycoons saying “Great article. I’m adopting your guidelines.” Most would be prohibited from accepting themselves as connections under those rules 

I know there are 200 or 300 million people on LinkedIn and you can’t draw generalities from a few or even a few thousand, but I can’t help wondering: “Are this many people really this willing -- even eager -- to be led?” Why would you adopt policies that work for someone you don’t know, operating in a particular situation bound to be different from yours?  Wouldn’t it be better to develop your own guidelines, even if that means making a mistake or two along the way?  

The whole idea behind being on LinkedIn is to meet new people. If you turn away, or away from, everyone who doesn’t post a picture or lay out all the details of his or her life or who hits a typo in a message, you don’t know who you might be missing.     It could be me.  
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