Social Media and Leadership Development

Jeni Nichols

While many baby-boom leaders are frustrated with the disconnect between generations, organizations across the spectrum also deny access to social networking sites. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by Robert Half Technology that surveyed 1,400 CIOs in U.S. businesses, 54% reported that their organizations block the use of social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter within the workplace. Yet our success as leaders depends on our ability to have profound conversations with constituents. And in today's web-connected world, that means taking advantage of the technological and social media tools available — to meet and connect, in particular, with members of the younger generation who prefer to communicate and learn in open environments.

So the important questions to leaders: Are you using online social media in your role as a leader to create an environment of openness and transparency? Have you practiced your leadership skills through a range of different media?

An essential starting place for social media novices or anyone wanting to build relationships with constituents in our new open environment is to profile your constituents' social computing behaviors using The Social Technology Profile Tool. This tool automatically creates a profile of your selected demographic group. It tests both your organization's voice and your constituent's receptivity to your voice (i.e., their willingness to listen to you and respond to you as credible).*

An additional approach is to follow the advice of Charlene Li, author of Open Leadership, who suggests that our focus as leaders must shift from trying to retain what little control we actually have to choosing where and when we will be open to embrace our newly- empowered employees. The Openness Audit asks you to rate how open your organization is in each of six different information- sharing elements. This diagnostic tool will help you understand where your organization is open and where it is not. In particular, the results assess the level of openness that exists in structure, encouragement, and exhibited behavior that can help define a plan to open your organization to becoming more flexible and responsive utilizing the technology and social media tools available.

References:  Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff; Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, by Charlene Li.

Jeni Nichols is Queen of Connections at Sonoma Leadership Systems, a leading provider of The Leadership Challenge® Workshop, training and materials, that also provides a dynamic range of integrated training programs, coaching, courseware, e-learning solutions, and implementation tools designed to inspire and develop exemplary leaders and teams at every level. She can be reached at jeni@sonomaleadership.com.

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