We recently hosted a webinar (link to the webinar recording) with Erik Qualman, professor and author of Socialnomics, on his latest book, Digital Leader: 5 Simple Keys to Success and Influence . Erik has hosted webinars with us in the past and I’ve seen him speak several times, yet I am always left inspired by his message. His thoughts on digital leadership reflect the trend toward individuals and businesses reaching social media maturity and the blurring of lines between our personal and professional lives on social media. Erik challenges us to adopt a more mature social existence and to participate in social media with thoughtfulness, reminding us that we create our own digital legacy. You can access the free webinar recording and free chapter download from Digital Leader, but in the meantime, here are my biggest takeaways from the session.

Erik defines digital legacy as the combination of your digital footprint – what you have uploaded to the digital world about yourself – and your digital shadow – what others have uploaded about you. Once you have control over your digital legacy, you have the power to influence through digital leadership. According to Erik, digital leadership is about both personal responsibility and being conscious of the digital legacy you leave behind.

I’ve previously talked about social maturity, and the ways companies evolve socially to improve processes, grow reach and, of course, social ROI. Erik teaches us that social maturity actually starts at an individual level. He explains that it’s all about “life, leadership and legacy.” Here are some of my favorite tips from Erik on how you can manage your online presence so you can become a digital leader:

  • LIFO – Last In, First Out – Respond to the newest messages first as you can surprise and delight your followers. Respond to older messages next – responsiveness is a sign of a true digital leader. It fosters reciprocity and will pay dividends not only now, but down the road.
  • Embrace challenges – There will be challenges everyday so learn to love them. This brings us to our next point…
  • Complain less – Life is hard enough – who really wants to hear yet another person complaining? Be constructive, helpful and insightful – your ability to add to a discussion will separate your digital persona from the rest.
  • Avoid multi-tasking – You think that juggling multiple screens at the same time makes you smarter and more effective?  Think again. Erik says multitasking has the opposite effect – it can lower your IQ by 10 points! You may also be surprised to hear that the effects of multi-tasking are more damaging than those of certain drugs.
  • Be decisive – It’s better to make a mistake and learn from it than do nothing.
  • Find your passions – Leaders inspire change not through force, but through a true understanding and communication of their passion.
  • Be true to yourself – Don’t pretend to be someone you are not. People can identify phony – even online – on Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and all the other online places you’ve built an identity. Focus on your passions; let your expertise shine through.

Achieving digital leadership, no doubt, takes time, effort and commitment.  As Erik advises, once you are recognized as an authority, you can’t stop there – digital leadership is not simply a status you achieve but a lifetime commitment you make.  Digital leaders don’t just test the waters, and try a few things just to see what works.  They are in it for the long haul – they are committed to building ongoing dialog and relationships that thrive on mutual trust.

Now back to you. What do you think your digital legacy will be? If you had to share it in 140 characters, what would you say? Who are the digital leaders you follow and why? Looking forward to your responses in the comment section, on Twitter, Facebook at Awareness, Inc., Social Media Marketing Best Practices, and in our LinkedIn Social Media Marketing Mavens Group.