Creative LeadershipEngaging Culture

Top Leaders Don’t Have to Be Online Stars

While it often seems like being a social media wizard is the key to success in life, I remember a study a few years ago that was very revealing:

1. Not a single Fortune 100 CEO has a blog.
2. Only two have Twitter accounts.

3. Only 13 have LinkedIn profiles with only 3 having more than 10 connections.
4. 81% of CEO’s don’t have a Facebook page.

So what’s the be concluded? Social media is a great way to connect with customers, audiences, donors, peers, or a church congregation. It’s a great platform for getting your voice and message heard. But the truth is, the 100 most powerful CEO’s in the country don’t engage in social media at a level worth mentioning.

If you’re a leader and interested in social media, then by all means start exploring. More important, if you have a message that needs to be heard, then it’s even better. But if you’re not, it certainly won’t cripple your effectiveness. Don’t succumb to the pressure.  Worry less about being a social media maven and more about running your organization.

There. I’ve absolved you of all guilt. Go and sin no more.

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  1. You make an interesting point. However, what do you suppose the results of such a study will be if the research is repeated in 2025?

    It is possible that one could rise to the corner office of a CEO w/o social media. Does that mean the same will hold for the future? 

    I think that question is more relevant. 

  2. Perhaps this is because the most powerful CEOs haven’t moved much on the career ladder since social media debuted.

    Now that social media is more institutionalized (?), you will probably need it to get your message out and network with this generation so you can become the CEO.

  3. Phil – me thinks we’re missing something VERY significant here.  On ths surface it sounds like a social media “get out of jail free card.”  After all some of the most successful people in the world don’t do this – so why should you?  Don’t worry – be happy!

    The Fortune 100 is a list based on annual revenue – period.  If you rate leaders from, Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil, General Motors, Ford, Enron, General Electric, Citigroup, ChevronTexaco, IBM and Phillip Morris on crucial business skills like critical thinking, originality, creativity they fail miserably.  This is a list of American success yesterday – the top down model that these guys (note the gender here – CEO’s are mostly white, mostly male) have proven doesn’t work anymore.  You don’t need a golden parachute from the government when you have a progressive, entreprenurial team.

    Social media should be more accurately defined as generational media.  It is the way that millenials, Gen X and Gen Y roll – they think therefore they blog, tweet, facebook and myspace.  If churches and non profits do not respond to this sea change in culture and CHANGE THEIR STRUCTURE ACCORDINGLY we will I fear continue to be “beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” (Eric Hoffer)

  4. Will leaders of the future need to understand social media skills?  Yes.  Do leaders who want to follow the cutting edge need to do it now?  Yes.  But the purpose of my post is the thousands of 50 year old+ leaders of major companies, non-profits, churches, and ministries, who are filled with guilt about their lack of social media skills.  I would rather release them from that guilt and have them move forward with their work.  For the next generation, it’s a no brainer.  But if the Top 100 Fortune 500 CEO’s are leading the world’s most successful corporations without that skill, then that’s worth noticing.  When it comes to leadership of a major organization with global responsibilities, we shouldn’t forget that there are other things just as important as keeping up with your Twitter followers.  🙂

  5. Sometimes guilt can be a motivation for change, and change in the top down church, non profit world is needed desparately.  There are layers of management, sustained by intertia and lethargy that are unproductive, unresponsive and out of touch.  No one can “move forward with their work” without a recognition that the one to many model is unsustainable and the many to many model – sustained in our circles by servant leadership and empowered by social media – is the only practical, reasonable solution.

    The key question is how to define success.  The gold standard is changing rapidly and the landscape is littered with dinosaurs like AIG, Lehman Brothers, GM, the Yellow Pages, Newspapers and heavily leveraged radio and TV stations.  Wouldn’t it be better to focus on bringing generations together through social media so we can learn from one another and move into the future together?

  6. I understand your perspective Rick, but few people write or push for “change” more than me.  However, I could care less if my plumber, car mechanic, or dentist uses social networking.  I just want them to be great at what they do.  There are millions of extraordinarily productive people who have no idea what social networking even is, and millions more who do it a lot but are remarkably unproductive.  I’m asking for a middle ground here.  After all, just a tiny investigation into the recent financial crisis would reveal that AIG and Lehman Brothers didn’t collapse because the CEO didn’t keep up his Facebook page.  Thanks for the discussion.  Good stuff.

  7. I have worked with a few  top 100 leaders.  Most of us will not come close to shouldering the pressure, schedule and responsibility that these individuals have.  They know about it, have an understanding of it and can get 10 people on it in a second.  The organization does not hinge on it,  too many other marketing/advertising/networking avenues still available and effective.

    I use it when I need to and will not be a slave to it (I don’t need to know EVERYTHING you are doing and thinking!) 

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