The way we lead is often influenced – at least in part – through what we have learnt and experienced. At its best, this means we’re able to adapt, using our past experiences to overcome challenges, difficulties or a changing environment.

But what about when we find ourselves in uncharted territory? The past decade has seen an explosion in social media, but this growth has come so rapidly that the rules and impacts are being formulated as we use them. The user-driven nature of social media means that, at its best, platforms become a fertile ground for new thinking and creativity, of engaging with and often responding to the world and those we know in new ways.

Following Social Media Trends

As leaders, it is easy to think that our organisations’ social media platforms are merely rapid communication tools that comply with the traditional rules of engagement, simply serving to communicate messages, manage a crisis and market the organisation or brand. It is also easy to convince ourselves that our personal, professional and organisational social media profiles are separate and unconnected.

However, disastrous and tragic events such as Grenfell and the Manchester bombings highlighted the risks involved with social media and the fast-moving, unfiltered way of communicating. There is a hunger for an instant reaction, information and accountability. This has created a faster-paced communications environment for individuals, organisation or communities.

For many of us, entry into the world of social media is often relatively safe, fun and rewarding. It gives us a sense of connection and enhances our credibility and presence to a wider audience. However, as we grow our connections, generate followers and attract more likes, it can become an addictive obsession or pressure to keep enhancing our presence, maintain a profile or be heard among the noise. The increased exposure can also bring an increased risk of unwanted attention, trolling and adverse reaction. In the most extreme cases, this can lead to reputational risks, unearth elements of our past or damage our mental health.

Social media

Managing Boundaries

There is significant evidence of the links of social media platforms to addictive behaviour, with many warnings about levels of screen time usage. What’s more, the desire to maintain our social media presence and broadcast our lives to the world can also mean that the boundaries between our personal and professional lives become blurred. The recent story of a post made by a barrister on Boxing Day created a storm of controversy and dramatically highlighted how a spur of the moment post can link from personal to professional and call the latter into question:

Our use of social media at times of pressure or trauma can also pose a threat to our personal reputation. The revelation over the festive period of the reason behind the end to former referee Brian Madley’s career shows how our impulsive reactions on social media at times of pressure or trauma can also be poorly judged and result in negative consequences. This seems all too often to result in a fatal reputational and personal consequence.

These stories alone reinforced my growing observation that it is not only the younger generation that needs to be aware of the dangers of social media. There is an increasing likelihood that current leaders will become the victim of a reaction or campaign to discredit their actions, integrity or decisions. It is not uncommon to see leaders of organisations sharing their personal opinions on social media. However, personal opinion alone will be little protection if their statement is seen to contradict or have influenced a decision taken within their professional sphere of operations.

There is clearly a generation of emerging leaders who will have a greater understanding of the jeopardy of social media, as they have grown up with the technology. Yet there are still a significant number of leaders, senior managers and key influencers who take to the world of social media with little support or advice regarding how to protect themselves against the heightened exposure and visibility social media naturally brings.

Social Media Leadership Development

Monitoring and effectively responding to challenge and criticism on social media can feel like a complex task. When a crisis hits, organisational responses can move slower than the pace of social media, leaving the leadership or individuals to combat any fall out at a personal or professional level.

Currently, there appears to be little if no effective support or training for leaders in defining, planning and managing their strategy for using social media within their work, professional and personal lives. Yet the traditional view of being able to compartmentalise our different roles and networking circles is becoming far more blurred and complex.

Social media diagram

Working collaboratively with Leadershipcommunications.co.uk we are planning to give leaders the time and space away from the everyday pressure of their duties to evaluate their risk of unwanted exposure whilst building effective communication strategies for themselves, their staff and their families. We believe that offering an environment and place for leaders to evaluate the use of the best communication tools will help maintain perspective, assist in better decision making and enhance resilience when a crisis or unexpected event hits.

We also believe that by offering a positive opportunity to do some reflective learning that it is more likely that a leaders wellbeing will be better protected and enhanced.

If this article has resonated and you would be interested in attending our unique training environment email your interest to allen.graham@circlingsquares.co.uk or post a comment requesting more details and we will be pleased to provide further information.

Allen Graham
Director
Circling Squares Ltd