Some of the most effective leaders are actually the best followers…on social media, that is.
As a result of the CEO Social Activism blog posts I did earlier this year, I’ve become engaged in more and more discussions about how CEOs and other leaders could – and should – be using social media. We started by talking about when it’s appropriate for a CEO to speak out on social issues, but the conversation evolved into a broader discussion of how leaders can use social media to lead more effectively. It’s a fascinating topic, and one that is particularly relevant now.
Social media offers leaders a public platform they can use to interpret news and events, motivate and align their team, and lead by example. It’s a powerful tool – one more leaders need to take advantage of.
To look at specific ways to lead using social media, I thought it would be useful to turn to Jack Welch, who wrote the book The Real-Life MBA with his wife Suzy.
Leaders exist, they say, to give purpose to their teams. They define leadership as the relentless pursuit of truth and the ceaseless creation of trust. They list five leadership imperatives:
- Get into people’s skin – Great leaders build trust and credibility with words and deeds that prove over and over again they respect and honor their people.
- Think of yourself as the Chief Meaning Officer – You should over-communicate to your team on the following topics: Here’s where we are going. Here’s why. Here’s how we’re going to get there. Here’s how you fit in. Here’s what’s in it for you.
- Remove blockages – Get things out of the way so your team can move faster.
- Joyfully demonstrate the generosity gene – Celebrate your people and their success in every way you can.
- Make work fun – Create an environment that is exciting and enjoyable. Celebrate milestones and small successes. Embrace humor and candor.
Let’s look at how you can use social media to accomplish these goals…
Get into people’s skin
It’s all about your team. Social media allows you to get to know and care about your people as individuals. You may not feel it’s appropriate to become friends with your employees on Facebook – that’s too personal.
But you can follow your team members on LinkedIn, since it is a business network. You might also follow them on Twitter, if they use Twitter professionally. On both of these platforms you can learn more about what their interests are, what matters to them, and what they are proud of.
An easy way to interact on social media is to like or comment on their posts. This provides acknowledgement and support in a simple way.
Everyone pays attention to who is paying attention to them. When your team sees that you are giving them your attention, they feel good. It’s a nice way to show they matter.
Think of yourself as the Chief Meaning Officer
Your posts in social media allow you to tell the stories that matter to you, share your vision and promote initiatives.
You can comment on current events and corporate news, interpreting what’s going on, sharing your insights, and helping people appreciate what you think is important.
You can encourage open discussions and praise the courage of people who speak up. Being active in social media gives you a way to hear truth from your team – things you might not hear otherwise – and allow everyone to see you reflect on them and respond.
This is a great way to get out in front on issues, especially situations that are developing in real time and need fast action.
Removing blockages often involves dealing with bureaucracy, something that is usually better done behind the scenes. You rarely want to be negative in public. So, focus on the positive and publicly endorse initiatives that help your team make progress faster.
Joyfully Demonstrate the Generosity Gene
Congratulating people in public motivates powerfully. You can use social media to recognize the achievements of individual team members, showing your genuine interest and involvement, as well as the success of your entire team, spreading the word about awards and milestones.
Don’t forget to congratulate, like and comment on good news from clients, partners and colleagues as well.
Make Work Fun
Allow people to see your sense of humor in how you react to both good news and bad. Use your posts to show how you keep your team upbeat, and that you genuinely enjoy each other’s company. A fun work environment boosts everyone’s morale.
“Truth is a determined pursuit, a personal and unquenchable fire, burning to know what is really happening inside the company and out. Trust is a muscle, strengthened by daily exercise. It is a discipline, honed in encounters with employees, superiors, and constituents of every kind. Combined, the double helix of truth and trust cracks the code of leadership today.” Jack and Suzy Welch
Social media allows leaders to show a more human, personal side to their business persona. You hear truth, and you build trust. Not only do you have the opportunity to share and promote successes, you have the ability to interact with team members, colleagues, and clients in a way that shows your respect, admiration, and gratitude. And, ultimately, it helps you become a more effective leader.