Business improvement requires making smart decisions. Smart decisions require real leadership. But sometimes “leaders” ask business improvement questions that make me wonder if they are completely clueless.
This question came to mind when a colleague referenced an article titled Does Your Nonprofit Need a Social Media Manager?
The "required skills" section here is particularly valuable… | Does Your Nonprofit Need a Social Media Manager? http://t.co/cpoXKtatik
— AndreaSauceda (@AndreaSauceda) August 5, 2013
To summarize that post and add a little extra zing: If you’re asking “do we need a social media manager for our company?” I feel like what you’re really asking is “am I operating with a mindset that is decades out of date?”
Or as I quipped back to Andrea:
@AndreaSauceda Can you find the article "Your Nonprofit Probably Needs Actual Leadership If They Are Asking About a 'Social Media Manager'"
— robbyslaughter (@robbyslaughter) August 5, 2013
You might think that I’m about to launch into a business improvement rant about the critical importance of social media for nonprofits and companies.
But I’m not. Of course social media is incredibly important. If your organization has any stakeholders, those individuals are online. It would be foolish not to study what people are doing and act accordingly. It would be a complete failure of leadership to fail to pay attention to current trends. If as a leader you say “I don’t get Facebook” you just have not been paying attention. Over one billion people use Facebook every month (source). If you’re leading business improvement efforts but you are not closely following a trend that in less than a decade has overtaken a sixth of the world’s population…well, what are you doing?
But this isn’t a rant about social media. It’s a rant about actual leadership.
Leading an organization requires studying how the world is changing. Certainly technology (including social media technology) is an area of tremendous change. For example:
- Microsoft Excel is the duct tape of the modern enterprise. If you can’t drive this software application, you cannot operate productively at a tactical level. Solid Excel knowledge is now a basic professional skill.
- Self-service via Google is the biggest cost savings in human history. People who routinely ask factual questions that they could have found in ten seconds in a web search likely do not grasp the transformative impact of the Internet on all of humanity
- The encoding of business data is indispensable and nearly automatic. Even a one-person nonprofit should be keeping electronic lists, populating databases, running reports, and conducting routine reviews. If your data is not computerized—or worse, you don’t have anything resembling “data”—you’re not running much of a business.
But this isn’t a rant about failure to adapt to technology. It’s about the most important and most widespread leadership and business improvement failure: a lack of social awareness.
If you’re interested in business improvement and real leadership, you must acknowledge that everything is changing. And furthermore, even though you don’t agree with all of the changes, the people who are leading these cultural revolutions are pursuing them because they think these changes are good for the world!
Failure in leadership has nothing to do with age. There are plenty of clueless people from every generation. Leadership doesn’t require experience (although it certainly helps), it requires a particular perspective:.
If you consider yourself a leader, you must be truly open to new ideas, new conversations, and new experiences.
If you consider yourself a leader, you must be not just a teacher of history but a student of a culture.
If you consider yourself a leader, you must accept that what has become popular may not interest you, but cannot be ignored.
If you consider yourself a leader, you must meet people where they are, and rush to join them if they have moved ahead.
If you consider yourself a leader, you must be ready to make room for someone able to think more broadly and act with greater humility.
Too many people who call themselves “leaders” struggle to be emotionally and intellectually available. Real leadership requires a focused awareness on the world of today. If you’re not checked in to what’s happening, it’s time to check out of that leadership role.
Here’s the simple, painful truth: There’s no chance for business improvement if you don’t actually know what’s going on.