Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner identify five principles of leadership in their book, The Leadership Challenge. The first is to "model the way" or as we also say "lead by example."
In a recent BusinessWeek piece titled: CEOs Who Use Twitter, the writers note that in August of 2008 they reported 18 CEOs using Twitter. Less than a year later, they're featuring 50 CEOs who are tweeting to their personal and professional delight. The trend is worthy of discussion for a number of reasons.
First, it speaks to a CEO willing to explore new ways to communicate with stakeholders. You set an example by showing your people that you're a curious person rather than a fundamentalist as defined by Seth Godin. To paraphrase, a fundamentalist considers whether a fact is acceptable to their faith before they explore it. A curious person explores first and then considers whether or not they want to accept the ramifications. Great CEOs challenge their people to be curious.
Second, CEOs who are exploring Twitter's possibilities send a powerful message to customers and other stakeholders alike that they want to engage directly with their audiences. In today's world there are two kinds of companies - the ones that want to promote a dialogue with their clients/customers in an effort to build true relationships, and the ones simply trying to drive transactions. I choose to do business with companies who exemplify the former.
Finally, in the communication business, clients want to believe you understand all the communication tools available to them. For my money, social media can't be taught, it has to be learned. Agency CEOs who aren't participating and leading their own people in this arena will never be able to provide competent counsel to yours.
Achieving an all new level of client service excellence will mean the difference between thriving and surviving in the coming months and years. We'd be wise to pay attention to these CEOs as they model the way.