Is social media literacy important in evaluating leadership?

I read an intriguing article in the Fin the other week about a CFO in the US who was sacked after “making light” of Board meetings in regular Tweets. This must be the reason why only 4 CEOs in the ASX top 100 have live Twitter accounts!

But what of social media’s importance in organisational leadership?

What’s clear is that this revolution impacts on almost everything we do, in both personal and professional spheres, and it is finding useful application in business. Think internal blogs and notice boards, YouTube training videos, Wikis, and so on. They act to foster collaboration and cocreation, by breaking down typical barriers to conversation.

It is a smart leader that will count social media literacy as part of the leadership tool-kit. Interestingly enough, McKinsey’s had something to say about this (and I’ve summarised).

Leaders need to become effective producers of content. Great leaders can be great story tellers.  Today, they’ll be technologically competent enough to record their own videos, and confidently use YouTube.

Leaders need to be master distributors, understanding how communication flows arise and interact in the new social arena. Recognising social media as a primarily horizontal conversation, and the traditional command and control communication as deeply vertical – the wise leader will get the right balance between the 2 systems.

As a distributor, leaders must also maintain a loyal network of followers and must have to something to say, regularly, and in the right way.

As a recipient of social media messaging, leaders need to be able to manage the vast array of communication in-flows. Knowing when to respond, and when to hold off; knowing when and how to contribute to conversations are vital skills to master.

Leaders need to act as orchestrators and advisors, promoting the use of social media and raising literacy among direct reports. By harnessing new technologies in a strategic and organised fashion, new possibilities for collaboration arise. Look to digital natives for “reverse mentoring and training”.

Leaders need to be an architect, creating the infrastructure, tangible and non-tangible, to encourage free exchange but create a control mechanism which inhibits irresponsible and reckless use. Two conflicting paradigms, but getting the informal and formal balance right is essential.

Leaders have to analyse the next emerging innovations, not just from a market perspective but also on how they impact an organisation’s ability to communicate. Future developments may further revolutionise how an organisation communicates.

It’s still early days in the social media revolution but things are only going to evolve further. As a leader, mastering social media in an organisational context clearly reaps rewards, it promotes creativity, breaks down barriers, fosters cooperation, exchanges ideas and, ultimately, promotes innovation. Successful leaders who master this will not only have an impact on people and culture, they will create organisations well equipped to compete in a dynamic, changing and complex world.

So back to the question posed: Is evaluating social media skills important?

Understanding how to use prevalent (and emerging) social media technology must form part of today’s leaders’ suite of competencies. Therefore, as assessors, we need to be suitably prepared.

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