Social Media Drives New Forms of Leadership

Leadership in the age of social media is not about the tools, according to results from the Social Leadership Survey presented this week.

If you’ve ever spent some time on Twitter, you know how much people on Twitter love to talk about Twitter. It goes like that on a lot of social media platforms. So it would be easy to think that the most important aspect of the social media revolution is the tools and the technology. A recent survey of social media professionals, however, would suggest otherwise.

Asked to identify their most desirable traits in a leader, respondents placed “participates on social media in his/her own voice” surprisingly low compared to a selection of broader leadership traits. Maddie Grant, CAE, and Jamie Notter, authors of Humanize: How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World, presented results of their 2012 Social Leadership Survey to a gathering of association and nonprofit professionals Tuesday evening in Washington, DC.

Source: 2012 Social Leadership Survey, conducted by Maddie Grant, CAE, and Jamie Notter

Social media pros place more importance on seeing leaders embrace the underlying principles of social media than using the tools themselves.

Notter, vice president of the consulting division at Management Solutions Plus, illustrated an interesting contrast in social media professionals’ beliefs about leadership in the Web 2.0 era. Consider: 84 percent of the 505 respondents to the survey said they believe that a leader’s involvement in social media gives a company a competitive edge, and 44 percent of them said they were “concerned” about their leaders’ lack of involvement in social media. So, clearly this was an audience that believes in the power of social media. Yet, when asked to rank leadership traits, use of social media tools still ranked low.

What gives? Notter said he believes social media pros place more importance on seeing leaders embrace the underlying principles of social media than using the tools themselves. And those principles are the basis of a new style of leadership.

“The leadership traits that they are identifying as important are different than the traditional leadership traits identified in the past,” he said.

In the ranking of leadership traits, Notter explained that four of the top five are attributes of “social leadership,” which align with the principles he and Grant identify in Humanize:

  • Embraces change
  • Transparent, shares information freely
  • Values experimentation and even failure
  • Open to diverse perspectives

(For a good intro to the concepts in Humanize, see Notter’s article, “How Your Association Can Be More Human and Less Machine,” from the September/October 2011 issue of Associations Now.)

Notter said the views on leadership among social media professionals suggest that social media’s effect on the future of organizations will be deeper than simple changes in technology.

“They want this stuff to be making a bigger impact in their organizations than, ‘Oh, it just helped marketing,'” he said.

(TMG archive photo)

Joe Rominiecki

By Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki, manager of communications at the Entomological Society of America, is a former senior editor at Associations Now. MORE

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