Youtube: Authentic Leadership in the 21st Century
This summer I’ve become a fan of vloggers and the Youtube community. These Youtubers give an inside look into their lives, and the famous ones like Tyler Oakley or Hannah Hart have become social influencers using their fame to raise money and awareness and social issues.
This genre of entertainment has these people opening up their lives and their success is often determined by their authenticity. How #relatable they are, how much they tell their viewers about their lives and how they connect to their audience all contributes to their popularity. They are public figures and have millions of fans that hinge on their every action and word. They’re leaders. And other leaders can learn a lot from them.
In the last few years, a number of high profile Youtube personalities have taken to their channels to be vulnerable and open up about many parts of their lives. This includes coming out on Youtube. Personalities like Hannah Hart and Tyler Oakley have been open about being part of the queer community for the majority of their Youtube career while others like Ingrid Nilsen, Connor Franta, Troye Sivan, Joey Graceffa and Shane Dawson have made heartfelt videos. And this vulnerability doesn’t stop at sexuality. Tyler Oakley has been open about his struggles with eating disorders, Grace Helbig has been talked about her social anxiety and Lilly Singh (iiSuperwomanii) has told her journey wiwth depression.
For many of the Youtubers that have come out publicly, they had massive fan bases already and many of them have mentioned how scared they were that their community would leave them after their coming out. In an interview, Grace Helbig, another famous Youtuber, said that she tries to follow her fear and see where it leads her. This authenticity and vulnerability proves fruitful for many of these personalities, as they experience a wealth of support, love and a growth in popularity after their coming out.
The values of vulnerability and authenticity are equally as important in leadership capacities. Leaders need to connect with their team members, their community members and co-workers, and the best way to do that is to show that leaders are people too with complex identities, thoughts and feelings.
Just like Youtubers, leaders of all kinds, become public figures. You may be a public figure in your school, your town, your grassroots organization or on a worldwide scale – but when you’re a leader, there are eyes on you. And being authentic allows for people to make connections with you. Being an out queer leader provides visibility and creates community. Being vulnerable about your life’s challenges can both help you find the support you want and need, but also allow you to be a visible leader that has found success on their own terms that someone else can look up to. At VidCon 2015, there was a great panel discussion on Sexual Orientation featuring many of the Youtubers I mentioned where they discussed their journeys.
Being vulnerable, authentic and open are difficult things to do. They can be scary. And there can be risks involved in this. But just in being a leader, one is taking a risk. Learn to follow your fear. Learn to be open. Learn to let people in – you might be surprised by what happens.
What are some examples of authentic and vulnerable leadership you’ve seen either in person or online?