Why LinkedIn Doesn't Want You to be a Servant Leader
Today I'm going to make the case that the greatest impediment to servant leadership in a digital age isn't TikTok, Instagram, Truth Social, or any of our other usual digital bad-guys. Rather, I'm going to suggest that LinkedIn of all places is the greatest obstacle to the practice of servant leadership in the workplace - particularly among Gen Z and Millennials.
LinkedIn creates a perpetual sense of vocational FOMO, limiting our ability to meaningfuly connect with our present moment contexts. The LinkedIn news feed produces this sense of malaise by cramming our feeds with two types of posts:
"I'm thrilled to announce that I will be leaving to take a job (that sounds more more meaningful than yours)."
"I'm beyond excited to announce that I have been promoted (to a rung on the career ladder that you may never attain)."
Exacerbating the FOMO, and arguably the imposter syndrome that these types of posts create, are the platform's endless lists of "relevant jobs," offering the allure of meaning and purpose on the other side of the career search.
This creates a vicious social media cycle:
I see my connections getting jobs that seem more meaningful than mine
This leads me to apply for more jobs
I don't land land those jobs, which heightens my FOMO and imposter syndrome
While LinkedIn's mission of creating opportunity is laudable, it's news feed and jobs app both condition us to expect constant and immediate gratification in our career. This expectation leads us to be dissatisfied and disengaged within our current vocations. And as a consequence, LinkedIn limits the practice of servant leadership.
When purpose and meaning are always one career move away from your current vocational home, service becomes secondary to status. Why seek to serve, and serve first, if you'd be better off working elsewhere? Why empty yourselves for the needs of your current vocational home when you'd be better off "bringing your talents" to someplace else? I've suggested that servant leadership is practiced when we commit to listening to one another's stories and learning one another's values. But to what extent is this conversational depth likely in the transient workplace created by LinkedIn?
Certainly, LinkedIn is not the only impediment to the relational depth required for servant leadership. Just as employees are increasingly disloyal to their employers, corporations have become disinterested in incentivizing long-term service. The median employee tenure at most companies is less than four years. Even the highest paid employees, the chief executives, rarely stay within an organization for more than three or four years. Those switching jobs stand to earn more than those who seek raises within their current institutions. And the recent spree of tech layoffs has shown that investors view job stability as less important than the momentary whims of the stock market.
But in our day to day experience, these macro trends are less palpable than the vocational fidgetiness produced by LinkedIn. 200 million Americans have a LinkedIn profile. 137 million Americans used LinkedIn every day. At this scale, we might forget the words of MLK, who spoke of the accessibility of service in all walks of life:
"Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love." -Martin Luther King Jr.
Servant leadership is a practice of prioritizing service amongst everyday realities. It can be practiced in all domains and vocations. A servant leader doesn't need to have the best job in their professional network. But they do need a heart motivated by service, a willingness to bring people together, and the ability (to paraphrase Robert Greenleaf) to make their communities healthier, wiser, freer and more autonomous.
When LinkedIn triggers a tinge of jealousy over a rapid promotion cycle, or sends you a jolt of FOMO about the job prospect that seems just beyond your reach, it doesn't inspire service. It stymies it.
Seek first to serve. Seek not to scroll. The world needs servant leaders in all jobs and vocations, especially the one you find yourself in today.
@ryanpanzer is a recovering regular LinkedIn user.