Many of us feel that social media in all its implications is changing leadership. Certainly, books like Charlene Li's Open Leadership and IBM's approach to social business (cl) have been exploring this for a few years. I wanted to pull together some lessons that I have learned over the past couple of years. What are your lessons?
No one rules by authority but rather by influence
While successful business leaders have known that their true “power” is soft power for years, increasingly it is about influence and persuasion more so than the concept of “soft power.” Whether a brand manager is leading his or her team or a business unit manager running a division, social media makes us more reliant on more job functions across the enterprise. We literally need more people inside the organization who do not report up to us to get anything done. Social media challenges standard organization structure since it require sthe contribution of so many roles in the company. It literally breaks down silos.
Listening directly to customers and stakeholders is a leader’s greatest tool
The most popular report for the CEO at Lenovo some years back was our one-page cgm listening report that gave him a direct snapshot of what customers were saying without the filter of his managers and research layers within the enterprise. He felt as if the window had been swung open and he had a direct view for the first time in a long time. Saying that great leaders ‘listen’ well is a truism and now with social media, they have the tools to get a continuous listening post for customers, stakeholders, and employees that can help them really understand both emotional and rational concerns and ideas
Adapting to digital and social technologies and customer behaviors requires a SWAT team-mentality
It is not an overstatement to say that digital/social is blowing up traditional organizational structures and team process. “Departments” matter less than teams assembled fast from different parts of the organization with a common mission – regardless of the departmental tribe they may have come from. As such a leaders ability to assemble teams and get them working fast and productively can mean all the difference in the business. Having simple frameworks and playbooks for these cross-discipline projects is more useful than constantly evolving an org chart.Collaboration, creativity and innovation skills are the new premium
We need an organization of great communicators not just a leader or spokespeople
Conversations erupting in social media where customers interrogate a brand’s supply chain is all part of a more transparent and dialogue-demanding way of doing business. As brands train staff to communicate successfully across 30 Facebook pages and twitter handles and as customers demand to talk directly to subject matter experts and even brand managers, everyone – or at least many more people – within the organization need to be ready to hold up their side of the conversation. Leaders need to cultivate great communicators and be confident with sharing the limelight with a team of people – some who may be quite junior but adept at these new engagement skills.
Always be piloting
The adage that ‘the only constant now for business leaders is change’ is true. If you are a marketer, campaigns now look more like pilot programs where you are ready to alter course in response to how things go in market and that never stops. Marketing is looking more and more like direct response marketing where we get ‘pretty good’ plans into market and then constantly adjust. (See the framework for innovation)
Some of leadership ought to be crowdsourced; judgment should not
Leaders work inside organization of people who have different and potentially valuable perspectives. Today’s leader has increasing ways of tapping into that collective braintrust for ideas and feedback. It takes humility and new behaviors to gain an advantage by soliciting and using the ideas of others and cultivating a culture of avid ‘idea-sharing’. Nothing changes that the leader’s main skill is judgment – judgment about which ideas to enact and which to leave on the cutting room floor.
What are your leadership lessons from social media?