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Social Media and Leadership: On-Demand Communication

May 25, 2010
HR Bartender
Sharlyn from The HR Bartender: Consultant, blogger, wine drinker.

I had a great conversation with Sharlyn from The HR Bartender yesterday morning (I meant to ask what her favorite wine is)…She was kind enough to share some of her time and thoughts on social media, blogging, leadership, and communication.

I asked her what she thought about social media in the leadership development arena.  She identified a few “pulse points” she is monitoring, including the conversation on leadership in the context of social media.  She mentioned “openness and transparency created by necessity,” and believes this topic will soon translate to the employee-employer relationship.  It already dictates the consumer-producer relationship, and it is likely just a matter of time before it moves into the HR space.

This struck a chord with me; that topic had been the focus of a conversation earlier in the day with a Linkage client and GILD alum: I said that social media is “the internet evolving from ‘telling’ to ‘asking;’ a conversation, prioritization, and referral process.”  In the early days of the internet, it was a “push” world – companies would market themselves by sharing what they wanted us to hear, and that was that.  In today’s world, not only are many websites (including our own) moving to a social media-friendly format where you can freely comment on everything, but Twitter and Facebook have pushed us to a place where consumers are the dictators.  If what you write (or sell) has no relevance, people will not only stop paying attention, but they will also go elsewhere for the products and services you offer.  And if you don’t provide the customer service they are looking for, you can expect the world to hear about it via a tweet and tornado of conversation about how bad their experience was (echoed by others, doomed to reverberate in cyberspace).

Companies and organizations must adjust.  Employees are in the driver’s seat.  Leaders who see this and who can transparently communicate will be far, far ahead of the game.  Communication is a critical skill that leaders must develop, cultivate, and customize.  Marshall Goldsmith frequently references Alan Mulally’s improvement in this area, leading to Ford’s resurgence.  Employees and other constituents will abandon or even condemn a leader who doesn’t communicate, communicates poorly, or communicates dishonestly.  Can you name a few companies in the news recently whose leaders haven’t learned this lesson yet?

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