Social Business Needs a Culture of Social Leadership
I have been arguing for several years now that the real value of social media goes way beyond marketing and communications: it is teaching us a new way to lead and manage our organizations.
Thus I have been encouraged by the recent conversations I’m hearing around “social business.” While I think it has the makings of a buzzword, for now “social business” works for me as a category of conversations that we need to conduct in the business community.
But I’ll say I’d like the conversation to go further. The first level of conversation continues to focus on social tools and technology. Instead of only talking about social software in the context of marketing and communications, we’re now talking about integrating social into our CRM processes, or even some of our HR processes.
That’s cool, but I think we don’t hit the real value until we go beyond using the technology.
Take leadership, for example. I’m noticing more and more CEOs taking a keen interest in social media. One of their first questions seems to be whether or not they should be actively USING social media sites. That is certainly a relevant question (and the answer depends a lot on your industry and specific business goals), but there is so much more to social leadership than whether or not you tweet.
The real value of social media goes way beyond marketing and communications: it is teaching us a new way to lead and manage our organizations.
Maddie Grant (my Humanize co-author) and I did a survey last fall on the topic of social leadership. We received more than 500 responses from people at organizations that were clearly on the social media bandwagon (84% actually feel that having leaders involved in social media gives their company a competitive edge).
We then asked them to choose their top four individual leadership traits among a list of 12 that we provided, which included “participates in social media in his or her own voice.” We figured using social media was going to rank high in this group.
Using social media ranked 10th out of 12, and was only included in 21% of the lists. So what did rate? Criteria like embracing change, transparency, clarity, valuing experimentation, and being open to diverse perspectives. Those were the top five. They beat out more traditional leadership traits like holding people accountable, charisma, and commanding loyalty from employees.
If you’re a leader and want to reap the rewards of social business, then don’t focus too much on the social tools. There’s nothing wrong with using the tools (it’s a great way to get started, actually). What matters most however, is creating a culture consistent with the principles and values that have driven social media’s success.
That’s what the employees in a social business are expecting now. That’s where you’ll find the productivity and effectiveness gains. At this point, I think only the leading edge has figured this out, so now is the time to make the move.
Art by: contraomnes