Should business leaders be using social media as a management, marketing and motivational tool? The chorus sings a unanimous yes to the question, and more voices quickly harmonize with the specifics of why, what, when, where and how. Good guidance for leaders at all levels—from the C-Suite to newly minted managers—can quickly be found by any serious article search on the internet. Be authentic. Be personal. Be timely. Be topical. Be careful!
And still, somehow, the number of prominent social media missteps, failings and ineffectiveness compounds. At IPL, our view is that this is not about social media as a medium itself, but rather about the fundamental views and tools that distinguish great leaders from average leaders. Our work and research demonstrate time and time again that great leadership is sourced from within; that the very best leaders achieve higher levels of what we call Inner Mastery. And that from this place of Inner Mastery, it is much easier to maintain both authenticity and high levels of accomplishment. In life. In leadership. And in social media.
Let’s look briefly at IPL’s 5 Pillars of Inner Mastery and Personal Leadership:
- Purpose: acting—in life and leadership—from a core set of inviolable values. With goals as milestones on a value-driven journey.
- Wisdom: understanding and having mastery over your own thoughts, emotions, beliefs and ideas—so that they may serve your purpose and values rather than you being a slave to them.
- Love: taking joy in other peoples’ joy and finding a feeling of success in others’ success.
- Growth: adopting a growth mindset—the understanding that our character and resulting behavior is not fixed, but changeable—and recognizing the potential for growth in others as well.
- Self-Realization: discovering our inner core of peace and tranquility, where we observe our thoughts, feelings and experiences without being swept away by them.
And now let’s examine how each pillar of Personal Leadership might apply to a powerful and effective executive social media approach:
- Social Media with Purpose. Clearly, posts and tweets with an end result in mind are preferred over those that are random or purposeless, but this is not what we mean in this context. Rather, what is your reason to be, as a company and as a leader? What are the inviolable values and principles you stand for? When all your actions and all your social media posts are sourced from a place of deeply held values and principles—both personal and institutional—it is much easier to post a clear and purposeful message without a misstep.
- Social Media with Wisdom. Before putting anything “out there,” check in with your internal emotional state. Tweet with intensity and passion when appropriate but harness your emotions; don’t let them harness you and drag you away. Avoid posting when in a heightened emotional state such as anger. Always avoid revenge. This is the battlefield of business after all, not the schoolyard playground. Be thoughtful. Look, listen and wait before you leap.
- Social Media with Love. What’s love got to do with it? Revisiting our definition of love, you see that we’re not talking about romantic love here (which can, indeed, quickly leave one astray in this digital realm). Rather, we’re speaking about a state of heart, about context and intention. Ask this: where are you coming from as your fingers rest on the keyboard, ready to strike out in the malleable, instantaneous, viral world of social media? If your intention is to increase the opportunity for another person’s success, or to create and share joy for others—to put a smile on their face, to warm their heart—you’ll likely not only create that success and joy for them, but for you and your organization as well.
- Social Media for Growth. From the point of view that we are all changeable, that no one or no thing is a “lost cause,” social media offers a tremendous opportunity for the savvy leader. How is what you’re about to communicate in this space going to contribute to expanding your audience’s understanding? How will it open up a new point of view? Contribute to professional and personal growth? Social media activities that respect each individual’s opportunity to grow is a powerful strategic tool for shaping culture inside and out of your organization. And for achieving business goals. Of course, if one is uncomfortable with social media itself, one growth-based approach is to seek out a mentor (perhaps younger, perhaps what is sometimes called a digital native) for coaching and guidance.
- Social Media with Self-Realization. As leaders in today’s ever-changing marketplace, we often are called upon to rapidly shift from one seemingly opposite behavior to another. We must be decisive. And patient. Quick. And reflective. Visionary. And pragmatic. This, and the opposite that. So how are we to proceed? If we simply bounce from one behavior to the next, we can sow chaos, rather than calmly achieve our objectives. Consider instead, standing peacefully at the center of a circle, able to reach out with clarity to choose the right tool, tactic or behavior for the moment, use it and then turn to the next need and tool. Be centered and aware. Not scattered. Then post.
In the end, social media can be a powerful leadership tool, communicating values and value propositions in a way that can be quickly heard, and spread, through the modern media landscape. Executed randomly, emotionally and at a surface level, social media can lead to many missteps, misdeeds and significant mishaps. But when done from a place of purpose, wisdom, love, growth and self-realization—from what we call Inner Mastery—social media can quickly move hearts, minds—and markets—like no other tool we’ve ever had before.