Is your leadership team being social enough? (part 1)

socialmediaLeadershipThe support and participation of senior management is often cited as fundamental to the success of any new social media initiative.

Just as common, however, are tales of unread CEO blogs and sparsely sown twitter feeds, that lead to the demise of projects before they’ve been given the time to bed-in and flourish.

So just how important is senior management involvement and what should it entail?

Two approaches to leadership and social media

This two-part blog post looks at two very different perspectives on senior management participation in social media;

  1. Successful organisations today need leaders who understand and have mastered the whole social media process.
  2. Senior managers should be allowed to find their own level of social media engagement – what really matters is that they are getting their message out to their audiences, whatever channels they use. (Covered in part 2.)

Masters of social media

‘Six social-media skills every leader needs’, published by McKinsey Quarterly, suggests that today’s executives and senior managers need to develop a comprehensive understanding of social media, and the full range of skills to use it, in order to ensure that both they and their organisations don’t get left behind.

These skills make up the ‘six dimensions of social-media-literate leadership’, and are divided into those that individual leaders need to master personally and those that need to be developed for the organisation as a whole.


  1. Producer: Creating compelling content with an authentic voice, an imaginative, engaging approach to communications and the technical skills to produce digital-multimedia material such as self-edited video clips, blog posts etc.
  2. Distributor: Understanding and managing the different ways messages are disseminated through the organisation; both the traditional formal channels and the more organic, less controlled, commenting, amending, reworking and sharing that is the essence of social media channels. As part of this, leaders need to develop their own networks of social followers and connections, to help spread messages.
  3. Recipient: Developing appropriate tools and filters to identify important or useful content and then respond appropriately; posting, commenting, sharing etc. By participating in this way, leaders help develop a collaborative approach to learning and understanding within the organisation.


  1. Adviser and orchestrator: Realising the full value of new technologies by raising the social media skill levels within the organisation, encouraging and supporting their use and developing a culture of learning and sharing.
  2. Architect: Creating an organisation that supports a formal structure of reporting and accountability but also enables the sharing, networking, collaboration and  co-creation of the ‘informal organisation’ that social media can bring to life.
  3. Analyst: Staying ahead of the curve, keeping up-to-date on the latest innovations and emerging trends and testing / implementing those that will deliver future competitive advantages.

Not there yet, but it is worth persevering

It seems, as yet, that few organisations have raised their levels of social media literacy to the point where these skills have become an integral part of their leadership-competency models or subject to performance reviews and rewards.

However, those organisations whose leadership teams are able to fully master social media are likely to be more creative, innovative and agile. They are also likely to enjoy significant competitive advantages – attracting better talent; making the most of employee and stakeholder skills, knowledge and ideas; collaborating and innovating more effectively; establishing more loyal customer relationships…



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