For every brilliant leadership thought emanating from a smart leader, there are dozens of mundane, “who cares” statements and ideas. Leaders are people, just like everyone else. Who would expect otherwise?
Leaders, perhaps more than others, have a personal brand- powerful, caring, astute, generous, philanthropic, whatever. Yet, in real life, it is hard to have every statement and thought be consistent with that brand. There are moments of weakness or strong emotion or even attempts at humor, where inconsistent thoughts go from head to tongue and sneak out before considered thought intervenes. Fortunately, many of those take place in private or in front of a sympathetic audience who can forgive and forget.
So, why would anyone in their right mind, tweet thoughts that can come back and bite them in the rear end? Putting something on twitter is putting it out there for a potentially large audience to read and re-tweet. The more outrageous the statement, the more it will go viral.
Anyone using twitter needs to consider what their brand is and how their tweets comport with that brand. Richard Branson is a larger than life, hugely successful entrepreneur known for guerilla marketing and pulling outrageous stunts to market his companies. So, he is known for being a smart, risk-taking, swaggering, funny guy, leaving him lots of space to tweet interesting items. Athletes and rappers can pose and strut and trash talk in keeping with their brands.
The typical leader does not have such a huge persona. He or she needs to think of twitter as a narrow path to build their personal brand and that of their organization- narrow, because it is not without risk. Watch the number of executives that will be stepping down for something they tweeted in an unguarded moment either trying to be funny or provocative or just blowing off steam. That is why many have professionals manage their twitter account.
How many times have you written a letter or an e-mail and sent it off in the heat of the moment only to regret it the next day? Many actually shelve them overnight and review them the next day to see if they still “make sense.” Twitter is not designed for thought.
Leaders need to be thoughtful in how they use tools like twitter. They need to think about a number of things, including:
· at who the remark is aimed
· how it will be interpreted
· how those who are not “friendly” might choose to interpret it
· what the upshot may be
· whether it is consistent with brand
· whether it will help elevate the brand in some way
· whether anybody really cares about the topic
If a leader wants to instill the idea of community involvement in her followers, tweeting about working for Habitats for Humanity or working at a shelter could do that. But does anyone really care where a leader eats dinner, or who she beats in tennis? If a leader buys a new luxury vehicle, should he be tweeting about it to the world?
Twitter is a tool, and like all tools, there are ideal uses and not so ideal uses. Tools used wrongly can be dangerous. Leaders need to always have vision, values, culture and brand in mind Tweets should not be random. They should be aligned. Yes, that takes away some of the spontaneity. But, as we know, there are multiple dimensions in which we all operate, and leaders have to be aware of impact in all of them.