What Tinder Taught Me About Leadership
Updated: May 20
My approach to dating in my early 20s could only be described as an approach based purely on convenience. While finding a boyfriend was something that occupied my mind regularly, I never looked further than my immediate university friendship circle specifically people who were on the same train line as me.
As the years progressed, I looked further afield - hoping that I would enter a bar and across the crowded room I would catch the eye of a perfect stranger. I knew that in that instant, the jolt of electricity I would experience would confirm that I’d met my soulmate.
Without much luck (and minimal time spent in said bars) I was given the advice, by smug coupled up friends, that I needed to sit down and think about what I was looking for in a partner (aside from height) and make a list of those qualities, so that I was ‘putting it out into the universe'.
And when I finally decided to actually make dating a priority, it conveniently coincided with the invention of Tinder. Now the Tinder experience varies dramatically from user to user. But for me, by this stage I thought I knew what kind of values/characteristics I was looking for in a partner, and so my search became more active and focused.
I could go on about life on Tinder – but the more interesting part of my journey (aside from meeting my actual partner) was what I learnt about leadership along the way.
I’ve previously mentioned my perspective on the importance of networking (i.e. developing a network) particularly when it comes to utilising thought diversity to challenge your norms and break down “this is how we do things” mentality to allow for bigger picture strategic thinking and leadership success (read article). But how we develop that network is just as important, if not more, than why we need one.
1. Make it a Priority - You’ve Got to Be in it to Win it
For me, the first step was recognising the importance of building a professional network and actually prioritising it.
2. Be Active, Not Passive
For something so crucial to one’s leadership journey, it is surprising to think how little time we spend considering the development of our own network.
Many of us approach networking opportunistically – making a connection or following up with someone when they immediately cross our paths (the equivalent of dating the boy on your train line). Or perhaps we take it a step further, going along to specific events or networking nights, blindly hoping to meet that magical stranger across the room.
But most of the time, we really need to be actively thinking about our existing network, particularly areas it is lacking and, instead of just putting that out in the universe, really thinking about how we will go about accessing that expertise or perspective.
3. Make a List of What You’re Looking For (and Update it at Least Once a Year)
I started by making a list of people in my life that influence me. For example:
the people from my industry that I consider experts, trusted peers and/or friends
the people I admire most in and outside of my industry (and why)
and, anyone that I have or would go to for advice (personally and professionally)
Within this list I noted how often I actually see those people.
At the same time, I made a list of organisations I was part of (from more formalised bodies, like Writing NSW to something quite informal like being part of the Philanthropy Australia's New Gen community).
This snapshot in itself gave me a lot to think about. It makes sense that the people you surround yourself with will affect how you think, how you act and how you feel (ultimately impacting how successful you may be). So, first and foremost this process made me revaluate how I was prioritising my time and energy within my existing network.
But this was just the first step. I then zoomed out and thought about what perspectives were missing from my immediate professional network. For example: mine was was quite male dominated, leaned heavily towards the mid 30’s age range (with a smattering of 50’s and 60s), was predominantly Australian, predominantly Caucasian, and while I was well connected in the philanthropic and social enterprise spaces as well as in book publishing I could easily see I had minimal input from fellow entrepreneurs/business leaders and corporate types with expertise in other industries.
Uncovering this, my next step was to think about how I might expand my own network. For example, as part of this exercise I applied to join a global peer-to-peer organisation for Entrepreneurs.
4. Learn Along the Way
Similarly to online dating, what I was looking for continued to evolve and change. As I expanded my professional network into those unexplored areas I quickly discovered more of my own blind spots. This helped me update and expand my 'list', and I also continued to learn a lot from the many people I encountered along the way.
5. You Can be in it For a Good Time, Not a Long Time
Ones network can and should continue to evolve. Every single person you meet along the way does not need to be someone who becomes a long-term mentor or trusted advisor. In fact, you may never see the person again.
6. It Takes Two to Tango
Much of the above is about finding what you need, however as in life – relationships are all about people. So in reality, figuring out where you can add value to others is just as integral as how they can add value to you.
7. Conversation is the Key to Connection
Although incredibly nervous meeting my first online date, I quickly became the master of small talk and realised the best way to fill the awkward silence was by asking lots of questions. When I read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, I realised that what I had been doing subconsciously was building a connection by getting the other person talking. We all love the sound of our own voice and are poised to jump in with our opinion to contribute, but sometimes we just need to ask and listen.
8. Be Authentic
Authenticity feels like a bit of a buzz word at present but in reality, it is necessary for genuine connection as well as vital for many other elements of life.