Do CEO’s Need “Social” Leadership Instructions?

by Jay Deragon on 11/15/2010

In McKinsey’s article titled Leadership Lessons For Hard Times the leaders of 14 major companies,  all seasoned CEOs or chairmen, were interviewed, asking them to reflect on what they felt they learned during hard times.

The responses from the interviews McKinsey conducted were focused on communications, people and strategy. While the leaders of these companies emphasized common elements required of leadership during hard times, one must ask, do they understand social media is exactly about communications, people and strategy ?

Forrester Research confirms that very few CEOs or board members at top global companies have any material presence on popular social media sites. Being absent from the market of conversations may mean not being aware of  market sentiments.

Should CEO’s Engage In Social Media?

Many CEO’s believe they simply don’t have time to learn and engage with the social media environment. Time represents value and productivity represents using time effectively. As the next generation of CEO’s matures, they are likely to have a firm grasp on social media and know how to leverage it for strategic profits. After all, buyers spend an estimated 23% of their time on social networking sites, twice as much time as they spend on any other online activity  Consider where buyers hear news and exchange opinions (i.e., brand awareness and grassroots word-of-mouth referrals): less from traditional sources and much more through social media. As we enter 2011 and beyond, silence by the CEO is increasingly perceived negatively by buyers: At best, non-social CEO’s are clueless; at worst, negligent. Neither position is a strategically intelligent representation of the companies they lead and aim to grow.

Buyers are not the only ones influenced by all things social, organizations are now influenced and impacted too, internally and externally, regardless of size. How can a CEO remain relevant if he/she is not listening to the language of the buyers and engaging in the real-time conversation already occurring about the company and the brand?

Progressive leaders are those that have drastically different attitudes when it comes to information-sharing within public and private domains. Many of today’s market leaders are actively monitoring, reacting and engaging with businesses and consumers about their products, and they are far outpacing their competition. The laggards are wasting time with long drawn-out educational initiatives or studies that are too cumbersome and outdated by the time results are published or any decisions are made.

How and What Will CEO’s Need to Learn?

Have you ever noticed that the higher up people get within an organization the more pressed they are for time? When communicating with top management of any organization the sentiment is always “cut to the chase, I don’t have time for long presentations or drawn out discussions”. If you can’t effectively communicate what, how, when, where, who and why in five minutes then you lose a leader’s attention. Without attention, communication cannot occur – much less change!

Given these challenges there is a new hybrid approach to helping CEO’s learn how to survive and prosper in a marketplace of real-time social changes. My friend and associate David Bullock, author of Barack 2.0 – Social Media Lessons for Business, along with Inc 500 CEO Monikah Ogando, are co-founders of CEO Mastery, a business consulting and training firm designed to specifically help leaders gain the required knowledge to prosper in a world of short attention spans – equipping them with Hybrid CEO skills.

What is a Hybrid CEO? According to Ogando, “in this new economy and dynamic marketplace of ever changing trends and technology, it is no longer enough for a CEO or business leader to be deeply committed to their companies, holding the vision and leadership of their organization, they must also be equipped with the tactical and social know-how to execute on that vision.” “Vision is the fuel behind a company’s strategy,” says Bullock, “and the tactical execution piece is what gives strategy its legs. Otherwise, no innovation can occur, and companies are at risk of being left behind by their competition or ignored by their market.” To learn more about integrating Hybrid CEO strategies in your company, go here to download Bullock and Ogando’s complimentary white paper. This approach helps leaders learn to innovate and stay ahead of the market, instead of predict and react to it. It seems the only thing they cannot do is remain still.


Courtney Hunt December 6, 2010 at 9:41 am

Though I think there is value in having executives engage directly with social media, I don’t think they have to do it to provide the strategic leadership their organizations need. They do need to understand social media at a level that is appropriate for their position, however, and leverage that understanding to provide direction, set priorities, and create the necessary capacity to move forward. Unfortunately, however, today’s strong focus on social media tactics and short-term approaches allows too many leaders to give themselves an excuse to not engage. That’s not in an organization’s long-term best interests. As you note: At best, non-social CEO’s are clueless; at worst, negligent. Neither position is a strategically intelligent representation of the companies they lead and aim to grow.

I’ve included this item in a Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) S.M.A.R.T. News Digest focused on “social leadership.” Here’s a link to it:


Courtney Hunt
Founder, SMinOrgs Community

Gabriele Maidecchi November 15, 2010 at 5:49 am

We’re not doubt going through an age of change in the business/entrepreneurial world, and social instruments should surely be kept in mind as a new tool of choice for future CEOs, I am just not sure the current leadership will ever adapt successfully to the change.
In my little, I see a firm change in focus between the old and new school of leadership, where young entrepreneurs adapt to the change simply because they are “social users” in their very own personal experience, and they find easy to use these tools in their everyday business as well.
I also think that sometimes it’s better to delegate the social presence of a brand to a specific position within a company (Chief Socialmedia Officer? VP for Social media? You decide) rather then embarking in it personally, as sometimes it might even prove counter effective.

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