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Although social media is hardly new, the highly social CEO is still a rare thing. Whilst there are excellent examples, they remain few and far between.

Some people think that being on social media is about having a LinkedIn profile and visiting it once in a while. But social leadership means something entirely different. It means using social media in order to engage directly with customers and employees alike. It means creating a social personal brand. Leading with transparency and authenticity. It means being on the same platforms as the people that work for you.

The best social leaders recognise social media as a valuable learning tool for them and their organisation. From an internal communications perspective, it allows direct, and multi-directional, dialogue with employees. Contrast that to the typical monologue styles of communication used in many organisations; so often we talk too and not with, through presentations and newsletters and noticeboards.  Social leaders also the many opportunities that social media can bring, from speed of information to customer insight, through to a tool for listening.

Social media presents those that lead with opportunities to do so in a whole other way – without the limitations of geography or hierarchy.

Even more importantly, here in the UK we face a serious digital skills gap. This is an issue that few organisations are tackling sufficiently seriously. The gap between those that can use digital technology and those that cannot will only continue widen. Automation, ever increasing social and digital technology, AI, augmented reality. All coming to a workplace near you – soon. We need leaders to role model the critical digital skills that all organisations need now and tomorrow. To, through their own behaviour, firstly give the necessary permission to use social media and then to encourage these new ways of working. Finally, they must help remove the organisational barriers that will inevitably get in the way.

The time for social leadership, is undoubtedly – now.

Gemma Dale is the co-author of ‘Putting Social Media to Work for the Busy Executive’.

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