#socialCEO July 2013

counselOne of the quotes I’ve most overused in the past few years is Don Tapcott’s “Institutions are becoming naked, and if you’re going to be naked … fitness is no longer optional. If you’re going to be naked, you better get buff.”

It sums up so much for me about the world we now live in. That when we have all become potential publishers to a global audience, whether through blogs like this, social networks or whatever other web-enabled media, our ability to conceal, hide and, erm well, lie, is greatly reduced.

One of the participant’s at last week’s Stamp webinar asked me what my thoughts were on whether leaders who aren’t natural communicators should use third parties (PR) to run social channels for them. In a world that demands transparency and disclosure, it feels that ghost-written social content is a very dangerous path to tread. Better “From the office of…” rather than pretend that the CEO is really writing this stuff. Whereas brands often thrive on inauthenticity, people don’t. The same goes too for all of the paid-for celebrity endorsements of products on Twitter and Facebook. Marketers tell us that consumers are savvy enough to know that we know that B-lister celeb is being paid to say something; I say if we all did, brands wouldn’t pay for the endorsement.

There’s a deeper thread that runs through this for me, though, and that’s the issue of ill communicative leaders – particularly business leaders. I’m currently doing some research analysis on the social networking activity of the CEOs of the FTSE 100. One of the headlines from that research so far is that only 11 CEOs from the FTSE 100 are “active” on LinkedIn (I’ve termed active as having greater than 50 connections – but there are only 18 who appear to have any sort of profile on the service). Only two are connected to more than 500 people. (UPDATE: you can find an overview of the research at https://infogr.am/The-disconnected-boardroom)

It’s easy to argue that CEOs of FTSE 100 companies don’t need to be farting about on social networks for the masses – but there are over 1.1M FTSE 100 company employees using LinkedIn, and I do wonder what sort of message the non-engagement of CEOs sends, if nothing else from a role- modelling perspective?

Then, though, there is a much broader issue. How can you lead if you can’t communicate? And as we enter a world where the tools for mass communication mean that it’s easier and easier to transmit messages and converse, does the business leader without communication skills become a dying breed?