What Leaders Adopting Social Media Can Learn from Drug Addicts

Behavioral psychologists have this big fancy term for how people make changes in their life, it’s called the “Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change”, we’ll just call it “Stages of Change”. In essence, this is how people progress from denial of a need to change through the successful change of the behavior. These stages are often used to describe the disposition of a drug addict in their process to recovery. However, the same stages can describe the disposition of a leader learning to adopt social media. Here’s how it works:

Stage 1: Precontemplation (aka Denial or “Not Ready to Change”)

This is the denial phase. In precontemplation, we’re saying there’s no real issue here. The drug addict says, “I can quit whenever I want.” The leader says, “social media is just a fad”.

What is needed here is an intervention. The drug addict needs their family to confront them with how their decisions hurt those they love. Peers of the leader need to show avoidance of social media reduces market share, causes missed sales opportunities and reduces share of voice online.

Stage 2: Contemplation (aka Acceptance or “Getting Ready to Change”)

The addict admits they have a problem but has not yet committed to solving it. The leader admits there is value in social media, but isn’t quite sure they must change themselves.

During this stage, the addict needs support of friends and family to grow their interest in changing. The leader needs the same: peers and team members to help educate and reinforce the growing awareness of social media.

Stage 3: Preparation (aka Commitment or “Ready to Change”)

The addict has stopped seeing the dealer but hasn’t gotten rid of their stash yet. The leader is dabbling in social media, friending their kids on Facebook (to their children’s chagrin) or perhaps reading blogs and books on social media principles.

What is needed here are examples, tools and techniques. The addict should join a program or commits to a process. The leader needs a routine, perhaps a schedule to check social feeds, a social monitoring suite or training program.

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Social Media Stages of Change
Stages of change: leaders adopting social media

Stage 4: Action (aka Initiation of Change)

The addict takes it one day at a time – without the substance. The leader has a social media account and starts to change their behavior.

Support is key. For the addict, a sponsor is vital to check in with them frequently. For the leader, this is the role of a social media mentor. Temptation to relapse is greatest as the change is new and healthy behaviors are not fully ingrained. So the support system must be in place.

Stage 5: Maintenance (aka Persistence of the Change)

The addict’s been clean a while and the leader’s behavior is solidly changed. Still, temptations are likely to arise.

The addict’s sponsor and leader’s mentor may not be around as frequently. Although they are on their own now, the addict and leader must maintain their focus if the change is to remain permanent. For the addict, this means staying away from situations where temptations arise. For the leader, it’s this is less likely to be a risk. After all, once the leader has embraced social media, they’re unlikely to ever look back.

You’re most likely past stages 1 and 2 already. Perhaps you’re in Stage 5 and preparing to help another leader through their own social media adoption. Whatever the case, be aware of the ever present risks of relapse and the critical roles of peers and mentors.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]


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Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

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