MUMBAI: Leading change in a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) world or managing growth in a challenging macroeconomic environment may not be enough to put the stamp of success on a CEO—it now needs to go much beyond.
Being active on social media is fast becoming an important requisite for a CEO, as it not only makes them better wired for business judgement and apt to take quick action, but even helps in overall brand building for the organisation.
Being social is clearly good for CEOs but, as new research by global HR consulting firm DDI shows, social CEOs are also great for organisations. The study says that social savviness is more than a resume nice-to-have, and is, instead, a powerful selection criterion. Social CEOs excel in six behaviours—empowerment, influence, compelling communication, cultivating networks, passion for results, and decision making.
Amogh Deshmukh of DDI India told TOI, “Our research suggests that similar to their foreign counterparts, Indian CEOs who are more active on social media are seen significantly better at these six competencies. In addition to this, we have also observed these CEOs have a positive impact on the way employees of the organisation interact over social media, and this has a direct impact on the organisation’s brand image.”
In a fast-paced world, social media facilitates flow of information and communication in real time. So there are obvious reasons CEOs should adopt social media as it allows them to reach more people, in more places, in less time, and for less money. And, it can be used as a platform for rapport and brand-building.
Extolling the virtues of social media, Anand Mahindra recently said in an interview to TOI, “Twitter is an amazing cockpit for any CEO”, and had helped him to reach out to customers, dealers, protesting workers and even security guards. “Social media is one of the most under-rated business tools in my opinion, he said, adding, “it’s an effective culture builder for any corporation (hardly with a cost)”.
The leadership study was conducted globally, including India, involving 15,000 assessment participants being considered for leader levels ranging from front line to the C-suite, of which 243 were CEOs.
Globally, Richard Branson of Virgin, Elon Musk of Tesla, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates are few examples of leaders, who effectively use social media to shape thinking around subjects that matter to them.
Besides Mahindra, Harsh Goenka, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Anil Agarwal and Uday Kotak are some Indian CEOs, who actively promote causes on social media.
Former CEO of HCL Technologies Vineet Nayar said, “In this digital age successful ‘leaders’ are those, who are inspiring stakeholders to do different stuff and do it differently. With boundaries of external and internal communication having vanished, a leader’s role is to get the message out and help shape the thinking of all stakeholders—employees, customers, society and shareholders for benefit of the organisation. Social media is a great way to do that only if you remain honest, authentic and focused on why you are doing what you are doing’’.
At present, only 20% of top-performing CEOs from Fortune 500 companies are engaged in social media, of which 18% were on LinkedIn, seven on Twitter, and only four were utilising both platforms, the DDI research says. The good news is that next-in-line CEOs are already twice as social. Of the 243 CEOs assessed, 51% are active on LinkedIn or Twitter, while more than half (of the 243) are on the former, while only 4% utilise the latter.
For a CEO to be effective they have to leverage social media, build trusted communities and help the brand of their company to go many notches up.
If used thoughtfully, every organisation can benefit from its presence on social media, says Harsh Goenka, chairman RPG Enterprises, and an active tweeple, adding, “CEOs and other leaders must optimise the use of this open channel and make it a vibrant space for free expression. Moreover it gives you access to potential customers, employees and business associates”. Social media increases transparency and accessibility says Harsh Mariwala, chairman Marico, though he feels the CEO per se, may or may not be on social media, as that is largely still a personal choice, and it has little bearing on the performance of the organisation.