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The Social Media Leadership Paradox

Submitted by on January 6, 2009 – 9:48 pmNo Comment

The average age of the C-Suite in the U.S. is 53.  These leaders first encountered the Internet in their 40s, well along their career path. 85% are male. Their medium was television – childhood diversion might have been pinball.

It is fair to assume these leaders were apprenticed in the time-honored mandates of the enterprise:  control the flow of information, manage the formal hierarchy (roles and responsibilities) to control business results.    Social technologies (blogs, wikis, virtual worlds, social networks etc.) invert these rules and rely on an “in command and out of control” philosophy where leaders exert influence but allow input and information to flow more freely (across roles, across disciplines, across company borders).  Essentially social technologies invert the logic that has dominated the enterprise since the days of the railroad.

This inversion leads to our paradox (warning – broad generalization dead ahead).  The higher you go, the less you know; people leading (at the top of) our companies have only a beginners awareness of, understanding about and facility with the tools and technologies of the social web; which are defining how new forms of value are created. Even more debilitating to top performance is that the leadership belief systems concerning the nature of work in this network economy  is rapidly becoming antiquated in some critical arenas (I will soon be posting on these “seven deadly sins”).

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