Leadership in the Age of Social Media
Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn
Social media is more and more a part of everyone’s life. While it used to be the realm of many of our teenage children, it is now considered an almost indispensable part of our work lives. Recruiters use LinkedIn to identify candidates for key roles. Companies have Facebook pages to promote themselves and their products. Some forward looking companies are adapting social media for use inside their companies, allowing employees to post, chat, tag and collaborate on social media technologies. Whether your company uses social media or not, people’s growing participation in social media has implications for how you lead. What does leadership mean in the age of social media? How has it changed expectations in the workplace?
Leading in the age of social media, means sharing leadership and letting go.
For many seasoned leaders, a core part of what made them successful was managing risk, making all the decisions and providing solutions. Social media allows a wide variety of people to share ideas, solutions and perspectives. At its core is the idea of pulling away barriers and allowing access to ideas and resources as never before. Social media allows people to be part of almost any conversation they choose and lead around issues where they have an interest or passion. This desire to be a part of the conversation doesn’t stop when they walk in the door at work. People in your organization want it to be successful. They want to be part of the conversation, part of the decisions, and part of the solutions, i.e., they want to lead. Executives and managers need to know that there are leaders throughout their organizations and that rather than controlling the agenda, they need to know that it can and should be influenced from anywhere in the organization.
Leading in the age of social media, means creating a clear and compelling vision and giving people information so they can make great things happen.
Power in organizations used to come from having and keeping information. Power today comes from sharing information and building collaborations. The age of social media has tapped into the desire to be engaged and involved. As a leader, you need to know that when you give people a clear vision of where the company is going and information about some of the issues it needs to address to get there, your people will do the rest. I’ve heard multiple stories from companies that use social media internally that have addressed issues and achieved results they never could have imagined without the input of people all over the organization. Polly Pearson, formerly of EMC, shares a story about this. During the height of the economic crisis, EMC needed to significantly reduce costs. Rather than sitting in a room and figuring it out for themselves, company executives gave everyone in the company information about what they were facing and what needed to be done. They then asked for recommendations about what and where to cut. After vetting all the response, they came up with 3X the amount of savings they needed. Whether your company uses social media internally or not, power lies in the contributions everyone has to give.
Leading in the age of social media means removing barriers to collaboration.
Outside of work, when I’m on social media, I can connect and collaborate with engineers, artists, physicians, non-profit leaders, and sales professionals in India, Belgium, Ohio or next door. There are no barriers to which we can connect within social media. What if we could recreate this in our organizations? Effective leaders in the age of social media break down barriers in their organizations to allow for connections and innovation to occur.
Leading in the age of social media means getting real.
Historically, the more senior a leader became in the organization, the more the walls went up around him or her. They dressed differently than their employees. They communicated via official vehicles like memos or emails from the Office of the President, full of very formal language that gave us know insight into the person from whom it was originating. Going to the 35th floor (or whatever floor your executive suite is on) was shrouded in great mystery and only available to a chose few. In the age of social media, people expect their leaders get real. Drop the corporate speak. Take away the mystery. Tell it to us like it really is. We’re big people; we can handle the truth. And, we’re more likely to follow the real human being than the archetype of a leader you used to try to present.
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