6 Skills of the Social Media Literate Leader - IEDP
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6 Skills of the Social Media Literate Leader

Leveraging social media for competitive advantage


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While there are many reasons for leaders to be social media phobic, social media literacy is fast becoming a prerequisite of the progressive organization. In a recent article, based on experience at GE, Roland Deiser and Sylvain Newton consider the impact of social media on organizations and suggest six key leadership capabilities needed to leverage social media for competitive advantage.

Understandably many leaders see social-media as a disruptive force that can let internal and privileged information go public virally, allow unbridled and unscripted conversations to travel randomly across the organization, showing no respect for traditional lines of communication or established management hierarchies.

Unfortunately for the phobics things have moved too far to hold back the emerging social media revolution. The power and potential of this technology both for organizational development and commercial innovation are unmistakeable. For example, as the authors point out “wikis enable more efficient virtual collaboration in cross-functional projects; internal blogs, discussion boards, and YouTube channels encourage global conversations and knowledge sharing; sophisticated viral media campaigns engage customers and create brand loyalty; next-generation products are co-developed in open-innovation processes; and corporate leaders work on shaping their enterprise 2.0 strategy”.

Fortunately for leaders wanting to embrace the positives and join the literate, social media is itself a powerful transformational force which can offer them the enabling infrastructure to foster the truly strategic use of social technologies. As the authors describe it “When organizations and their leaders embrace the call to social-media literacy, they will initiate a positive loop allowing them to capitalize on the opportunities and disruptions that come with the new connectivity of a networked society. And they will be rewarded with a new type of competitive advantage”.

In short leaders need to develop new social-media skills and help their organizations do the same. But social-media literacy is not yet embedded in leadership-competency models, performance reviews or reward systems, and may only just have found its way into the curricula of business schools. Deiser and Newton say this needs to change and advise that to become social media literate leaders must learn these six skills:

  1. The leader as producer: Creating compelling content
  2. The leader as distributor: leveraging dissemination dynamics
  3. The leader as recipient: managing communication overflow
  4. The leader as adviser and orchestrator: driving strategic social-media utilization
  5. The leader as architect: creating an enabling organizational infrastructure
  6. The leader as analyst: staying ahead of the curve

They go on to say that organizations whose leaders master these six dimensions of social media literacy will be more creative, innovative, and agile; attract and retain better talent; tap deeper into capabilities and ideas of their employees and stakeholders; and be more collaborative internally and externally enjoying a higher degree of global integration.

Read the full article to understand the six skills and see how they may be apply to you and your organization.

Read the full article: Six Social-Media Skills Every Leader Needs, McKinsey Quarterly, February 2013

Roland Deiser is a senior fellow at the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University
Sylvain Newton is the GE Crotonville Leadership Senior Leader for Business and Regions

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