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A strange kind of leadership: Talk Like A Pirate

Arrrhhh, it’s leadership, Jim lad, but not as we know it…

I’ve been fascinated for a long time by what makes things viral. I mean way before the Net made it possible: urban myths were replicating at speed from continent to continent well before the Web connected us all up.

There’s an academic at UC Berkeley who specializes in urban myths and how they spread. I’ve got a couple of his books, but they are more yawn-inducing than they should be.

So, why are all things viral relevant to leadership? Because they are a way of leading people’s behaviour that, in their spontaneity, are nearly impossible to predict or anticipate.

A friend of mine, Dave Favis-Mortlock, who is an expert on self-organizing systems, could probably tell us more about how a piece of communication reaches a tipping point and goes viral. But, Dave’s so clever I have trouble keeping up with him.

Latest mind-boggling example of a viral communication leading millions of people to change their behaviour is Talk Like A Pirate day. It’s this Tuesday and 19 million people (what?) are expected to take part. Even if you discount that estimate for hype it’s still a massive number.

It started when a couple of friends began, as a joke, cussing each other in pirate-speak while playing racquetball.

Here’s a news item about it:

“It started out as a joke.
They were hoping for 15 minutes of fame and then … Arrr!
They were creating a Web site, writing books and making countless radio and television interviews.
‘I think we’ve stretched it into 17 minutes,’ said Cap’n Slappy, aka Mark Summers.
Try five years.
The fifth International Talk Like a Pirate Day will be celebrated Tuesday by an estimated 19 million people on seven continents…”

More about it here, if you must:

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