Over the course of the past 100 years, the role of a CEO hadn’t changed dramatically – until now. The CEO’s main responsibility was to develop the business – promoting and enacting its short- and long-term strategies, overseeing other executives, meeting with the board of directors… the usual sort of things. Or at least, that was the case, historically, up until the digital age. However, with the emergence and growth of social and networking platforms, a new opportunity – and a new responsibility – has fallen upon the heads of leaders of organisations both large and small.
Typically, CEOs – particularly of large corporate organisations – never used to be accessible to their wider employees. They either adopted a ‘closed door’ policy, or their hierarchical organisational structure meant that contact with employees was minimal. Historically, CEOs would have had to stage mass gatherings of employees – which was both expensive and sometimes impractical – in order to directly engage with their workforce on anything like an individual or personal level.
Apart from the odd annual message or announcement from the CEO, staff in general might never receive any communication from their most senior leader, at all. For the wider workforce, this lack of relationship and lack of direct information could create a sense of exclusion – or at least, non-inclusion, in business affairs. An ‘us and them’ culture can be extremely harmful to employee engagement and motivation, resulting in underperformance and negatively affecting productivity. At one time in history, when authoritarian rule went unquestioned and workers were often seen as ‘factory-fodder’, this way of operating might have been accepted or was, at least, the norm, but times have changed. We have more of an appreciation of equality issues, we largely recognise individual potential and most of us uphold human rights. We also have a greater awareness and understanding of psychology and human motivation, appreciating the emotional needs of individuals in the workplace. We crave the human touch, rather than a dictate passed down from above by a faceless leader, translated into ‘real-life’ statements through several layers of executives until it reaches the lowest-paid worker. CEOs are obliged to be more visible leaders, to step to the forefront and open up the lines of communication, speaking more directly to their teams.
The advancement of social media platforms presents a real opportunity for business leaders to talk to their workers in an accessible way. One of the key responsibilities of today’s CEO is to ensure that they consistently communicate and sell their vision, making sure that all employees – irrespective of their role – are aligned to their company’s mission. Technical innovations have made it so much easier to communicate our message to our teams and social media, and other networking platforms are the perfect vehicles to reinforce this message. Whether it’s a Facebook page, a Tweet, an Instagram photo, a podcast, a blog or a text reminder – a business leader has a variety of ways and media by which they can reach their workforce at any time, in any place. They provide any CEO with the opportunity to share their thoughts, feelings and reflections as formally or informally as they wish – providing a sense that every individual is being personally addressed and enabling everyone to be involved in the conversation and feel part of the process.
While Tweets, Instagram or Facebook posts are useful for brief statements or announcements – or for posting links to longer articles, blogs and podcasts – it’s really in these longer forms that your own tone of voice can be heard, and your personality projected in communicating your message. Engaging with your workforce in such a manner enables you to dissolve the firewall that exists between you and others. Those old traditional barriers prevented you from truly impacting the lives of your employees for the better. But now, CEOs and business leaders can singlehandedly coach each member of their workforce – by sharing their philosophy of life, their motivational thinking and their insights, on any one of these platforms. Speaking directly to them, through their mobile or favourite platform, you can potentially become a mentor for every one of your employees – as well as impacting external associates and other individuals within your industry, and beyond.
Today, the role of CEO isn’t just about increasing shareholder value and business growth. Today’s business leaders have evolved to become community leaders. And one of the integral parts of building community is having values which are clearly communicated and shared. Therefore, it’s important for business leaders to communicate and reinforce their values, making use of the social platforms that are readily available.
Reach beyond, too. Widen your net. Not only do you enhance your ability to be a brand ambassador for your company – but your platform and message can often position you as a key influencer within your field and permeate throughout the wider business community – and in the wider public arena. We only have to see motivational quotes from Steve Jobs, Richard Branson or Gary Vaynerchuck to understand that their reach goes way beyond their respective industries of tech, comms, travel and personal development/coaching – offering guidance useful and transferrable to other business areas, and to life in general.
These days, if you’re not blogging or making use of the wide-ranging communication channels available – you are not being the most effective leader you can be.