Three Ways Social Media Make You A Better Leader
In 2019 it is estimated that there will be around 2.77 billion social network users around the globe. Social media is in every space of our lives: as consumers, citizens, students... What about corporate leadership?
A few top executives are already on board. Chief Executive reports that about 10 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are personally engaged in social media – neither outsourcing to ghostwriters nor ignoring the phenomenon. Why do they find the time and energy to participate, amidst overwhelmingly full agendas? What drives them?
Much has been written about the practical benefits of a social media presence: the ability to build and strengthen a corporate brand, to manage crises, to reveal a human side that consumers and employees can relate to...and on and on. But utilitarian arguments alone obviously do not convince most business leaders. What’s more, they entirely miss what are, in our view, the more profound benefits of social media usage.
In times of deep social and technological change, social media enables leaders to take advantage of the radical cognitive and relational transformations that are taking place everywhere. Social media creates within leaders and through them more capacity to metabolize the complexity of our modern world and turn it into a strategic advantage.
How, exactly? In three key ways:
Better decisions through easier access to unfiltered information
Using social media is one way to overcome the barriers to information. This is particularly important for senior leaders whose accessible information gets shaped by numerous filters. Be it competent and well-intended, or self-protective and risk averse, CEOs’ entourage form a distorting bubble. Ever wondered about the perception gap between managers and employees? Or the service gap? A personal use of internal and external social media balances the bubble effect, enabling leaders to grasp the reality on the ground in a fast, continual and accurate way.
But the positive effect goes well beyond executives’ increased awareness. By role modelling curiosity for unfiltered information and by exchanging thoughts and ideas directly through social media, leaders give symbolic “permission” to their organization to do the same. From there, information flows increase, liberated from obsolete precedence or secrecy rules. This is critical to success for the large, global, complex systems that our organizations have become. Businesses can’t afford to wait for information to reach the “right person” at the right time. Myron Roger writes that “everyone is an expert about their own context” and acts upon the information they have”. The easier access to information is, the richer it becomes – and the better decisions are.
Better business performance through relational engagement
The world of business has become more relational than ever. Brian Solis writes, “Brands are co-created by consumers through shared experiences.” Work, according to Esko Kilpi, “is increasingly understood as “interaction” rather than “job” or “organizational activity” – even leadership is contextual and relational.”
Thus, relationship building is now a required core competency for all professionals – and for senior leaders in particular. We’re not talking about just transactional relationships based on status codes, the organizational hierarchy or reciprocal exchange. We mean connections that arise within communities, born from a shared sense of belonging, acknowledgment of emotions and co-creation of work. This is what really engages consumers and employees.
Better odds to succeed with transformation through mindset change
The use of social media is often described as transformative for good reasons. These new channels generate new types of interaction – they create new ways to relate to one another. This is why it is fundamentally experiential and cannot be delegated without dampening its impact.
Social media evolves collective identity from “territory” to “network.” This enhances the capacity to welcome diverse input. As a result, culture becomes reflective of more voices and becomes more capable of synchronizing with the complexity of the world to transform disruptions into opportunities.
When some leaders at Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of a multinational pharmaceutical company, decided to get personally involved in an internal online community, the result was unprecedented improvement of the company’s manufacturing quality worldwide. Every week, they interacted directly with the broader employee community on the social network: asking questions, sharing insights, recognizing achievements, “liking” posts... Just a few minutes each week had a huge positive impact on their own perception, their leadership, and the flows of knowledge between employees.
It is striking to see the alignment between the four principles of successful change leadership described by John Kotter with the capability enhancement that social media affords…to those leaders who choose to dive in, often stepping far outside their comfort zones in doing so. The positive effects extend well beyond the leaders themselves, potentially rewiring entire organizations for the better, but change needs to start at this individual level.
After all, what’s the value of transformation talk if you don’t start by transforming yourself?
This post was originally posted on Forbes