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The Secret Lives of Great Social Leaders

secret.png July 11, 2013 / Mike Bailey

Social Business is a Strategic Move

Building a Social Business is far from a technology-driven management fascination – it is a strategic business process that brings genuine competitive advantage. The single most critical success factor is the role played by an organisation’s leaders, a belief echoed by commentators from academia and business alike.

The Secret Lives of Great Social Leaders

Social Business: What Companies are Really Doing, a 2012 report from MIT and Deloittes, identifies “lack of management understanding” and “no strong business case” as the two most substantial barriers to the Social Business. Being a social leader isn’t easy – you have to be prepared to change the way your company works, often starting with yourself.

In a 2012 post on LinkedIn, Richard Branson pondered why fewer than 20 per cent of CEOs are active on social media. His conclusion? They don’t see the value of devoting time to it – leaving them “in danger of being left behind. If that sounds like you, examine the business case for becoming a social leader, and make it part of your personal and corporate strategy.


Shaping the Social Landscape

Strategy created, you need to communicate, clearly and consistently, the benefits of becoming a social business. Your people need to hear it from you and your leadership team, with the emphasis on how you plan to involve them, what tools you plan to give them and what you expect the results to be.

As a matter of urgency, you need to assess how your company is positioned to adopt the new way of working. If you’ve just assumed control of a highly autocratic environment, expect significant resistance to change. The good news is that people all the way down your organisational tree will probably embrace their newfound freedom wholeheartedly, particularly those who grew up with social media.

Decide what tools you need to achieve your objectives. Social businesses don’t survive on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn alone, although these may form part of your strategy. Your choice depends on your initial focus area – do you want to concentrate on collaborative working or are you planning to spend time building your social brand first? Getting the right tools is a must.



Understanding What Gets People Involved

Leaders understand the need to involve their people in business initiatives. What they don’t always appreciate is the value of social media as a means of achieving this. When, in 2009, Mark Reuss was appointed President of General Motors in North America, he realised that Facebook and Twitter allowed him to establish trust with key stakeholders – employees and dealerships – far more effectively than the traditional corporate channels.

Social media offers a “personal” way to reach people that requires a fraction of the time and resources invested historically. Leaders, especially new leaders, can “lift the veil of uncertainty” from the outset, encouraging people to participate and become ambassadors for the organisation.

As MIT’s Sloan Review concludes, “it [social media] becomes the perfect vehicle for a new CEO to ingrain in the corporate culture a call to action and to make clear to the workforce what matters now that he or she is in charge.” It’s no coincidence that this is exactly what any leader – social or otherwise – should aim to achieve.


Leading by Listening: Build Stakeholder Trust

Today, anyone who tells you not to worry what people say about you hasn’t read the script. On a personal level, you’re not in business to be liked, but as a business, you need to know how you’re perceived by your stakeholders – both internal and external. Your social reputation affects your brand strength more than you may realise.

Internally, you may have a relatively captive audience, but your social brand relies on stakeholders everywhere. Building trust and enhancing your corporate reputation requires you to get involved personally with every group of your followers. Armed with comprehensive listening data, you can repair relationships that have suffered and reinforce those that are already strong.

You don’t win trust overnight - your personal attributes play an important part in winning hearts and minds. Research ranks integrity, demonstrable concern for individual outcomes, technical competence, even-handedness and shared values as essential characteristics of a social leader. Your behaviour needs to reflect these values in every dealing with stakeholders. Does this sound like you?

How close are you to being a Social Leader?

Mike Bailey
July 11, 2013

by Mike Bailey