There’s a lot of buzz out there about hashtags. You might even say hashtags are a trending topic. Some of you may have no idea what a “hashtag” is. It is a bit of a difficult concept to explain, but basically a hashtag is a way of labeling your social media posts (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). For example, let’s imagine you are attending a conference and you want to connect with others who are at the conference. You could “tag” your posts with a hashtag (using the # symbol) that lets other users find it. Still confused? Click here). In recent days, the hashtag has lost much of its usefulness, and has become a convenient and distracting and often annoying way to add a punchline to your posts.
I recently read an article on the history of the hashtag (#don’tjudgeme). One thing that struck me as fascinating was that the original creators of the hashtag had good intentions. On paper, hashtags serve a fairly useful purpose. Over time, when control is given to the masses, hashtags degenerate to the “lowest common denominator” usage, and lose much (if not all) of their appeal.
As leaders, this can be a lesson for us. In leadership, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to be culture shapers of our organizations. Whether we choose to utilize strong handed leadership, and control as much of our organizational culture as we can, or whether we choose “laissez-fire” style of leadership and allow others to have a hand in culture shaping, we face consequences. The story of the hashtag illustrates that when culture shaping is left to chance, the results are almost never desirable. As leaders, we need to be intentional (regardless of our strategy) about making choices that steer the culture in healthy and productive ways.