Leadership

Does Social Media Make You a Better Leader?

By / Apr 14, 2017 (Rawpixel/iStock)

Recent research from a leadership development firm finds that CEOs who use social media are stronger than others in six positive leadership behaviors.

Not every CEO is savvy on social media, but the ones who are often have a lot of other traits considered desirable in leaders.

That’s a key finding of a recent report by Development Dimensions International, a leadership development consultancy. As part of its High-Resolution Leadership study, DDI examined different aspects of leadership among potential CEOs and, in the case of this particular metric, compared the budding executives’ social media use.

What they found was that executives more active on social media were stronger than their counterparts at six different behaviors:

  • 89 percent stronger at empowering other people
  • 52 percent stronger at compelling communication
  • 46 percent stronger at influencing others
  • 36 percent stronger at building and cultivating networks
  • 19 percent stronger at showing a passion for results
  • 16 percent stronger at making decisions

The report makes the case that CEOs have a lot to gain from using social media because it makes them more sociable and action-oriented, while helping to tamp down tendencies to be argumentative, avoidant, and perfectionistic. (On the other hand, would-be execs who are on social media tend to be 29 percent more attention-seeking, which DDI calls “the dark side of sociability.”)

The benefits of using social media as a CEO are often fairly obvious, according to the firm. “With the crazy pace of change in markets and technology, social media facilitates the flow of real-time information and communication,” it states in an article on its website. “It allows more CEOs to reach more people, in more places, in less time, and for less money.”

Nonetheless, the benefits of social media seem not to convince leaders to come out of their shells. In an analysis of Harvard Business Review’s 100 Top Performing CEOs, DDI looked at social use by successful execs. Despite setting a low bar for social media use—simply having a profile with multiple connections on LinkedIn or Twitter, along with a profile picture, qualified an executive as “social”—the firm found that just one in five CEOs on the list met that standard, and in most cases the social network of choice was LinkedIn, not Twitter.

Demographics likely play a role, according to DDI research scientist Stephanie Neal. Women CEOs are more likely to be on social media, as are younger execs.

“While the current generation of leaders may be shy about social media, our study showed that the next wave of executives just below the C-level are twice as likely to engage on those platforms,” Neal, who works at the firm’s Center for Analytics and Behavioral Research, wrote in a CNBC article.

Need an example? Neal highlights a particularly social leader: Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, whose comments on Twitter are often thought-provoking and focused on engaging readers. In response to the recent United Airlines debacle, for example, he didn’t criticize the airline, but instead asked followers to imagine what a perfect flying experience would be.

Curious to learn more? DDI’s full report, which includes a broad array of topics beyond social media, is available for download on its website.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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