Why Social Media Makes Now a Great Time to be a Leader

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For the first time in history, leaders can receive effective feedback from millions of people.

Why is now a great time to be a leader? What makes today so different from prior centuries, or even decades?

Technology delivered a leadership innovation called digital social media. Throughout history there have been many communication innovations, but digital media, and its child – social media, provide the greatest benefit to leaders. Here’s how leadership communication evolved:

Nomad Era of Leadership CommunicationCaveman with club represents nomad era of leadership communications

It began with a club and muscle – the first leadership communication was born from a caveman. That was the nomadic era of leadership communications. As nomads, people moved from place to place, chasing food. Our tribes were small and the leaders were often chosen by power. A leadership message was pretty much one-way: he commanded, you did – or else you faced a clubbing.

  • Effective Directions: One-way
  • Scale: Dozens of people

A village hut represents the agricultural era of leadership communicationsAgricultural Era of Leadership Communication

Next, we began to settle down as we learned to farm. Our tribes began to grow and the first forms of leadership structure emerged. We learned to distribute leadership communications. Yet the communication only flowed one-way: from the leader to the tribe. Sending a message back to the leader required a good deal of effort and coordination.

  • Effective Directions: One-way
  • Scale: Hundreds of people

A printing press represents the printing press era of leadership communicationPrinting Press Era of Leadership Communication

Then we took a major leap forward in the scalability of leadership messages: the printing press. Now, a leader could distribute their message to millions of people at a fraction of the price. For the first time, a tribe extended beyond the leader’s immediate reach. But you guessed it – feedback to that leader was still a major problem. Although the printing press disseminated messages to hundreds of thousands, it lacked an effective feedback mechanism.

  • Effective Directions: One-way
  • Scale: Thousands of people

A TV and Radio represent the electronic era of leadership communicationElectronic Era of Leadership Communication

Another evolution in the scale of one-way communication, radio and television allowed leaders to reach millions of people. Still, the message was one-way.

  • Effective Directions: One-way
  • Scale: Millions of people

A computer represents the digital era of leadership communicationDigital Era of Leadership Communication

Then we developed this thing called the internet. Thanks to email, message boards and the earliest forms of streaming media, anyone could reach millions of people. However, for effective feedback, we still lacked a common and simple means of rating and ranking responses.

  • Effective Directions: One-way
  • Scale: Millions of people

The thumbs up icon represents the social media era of leadership communicationsSocial Media Era of Leadership Communication

At last, we have the digital media tools and technology combined with effective rating and feedback mechanisms. The ability to “like”, “love”, “+1”, or otherwise score communications applies a voting mechanism to feedback. As a result, a leader may never have one-on-one conversations with millions of people, but each one-on-one feedback is voted up or down by millions. For the first time in history, leaders can receive effective feedback from millions of people.

  • Effective Directions: Two-way
  • Scale: Millions of people

Leaders from previous generations would love to have these tools. Imagine how much easier major movements could have been coordinated, measured or influenced with social media. What would previous leaders think of modern complaints about the effort involved in sharing your message or spreading influence?

There’s no more excuse. Now is a great time to be a leader.


Picture of Ben Lichtenwalner

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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