10 Leadership Lessons From Twitter

by Thomas MORADPOUR on February 12, 2011 · 17 comments

Great leadership is timeless. Since humankind crawled out of its caves and started grouping into hordes, tribes, and nations, great leaders have emerged to inspire us to go beyond ourselves, and join efforts broader than the individuals. Nothing new under the sun.

But in today’s age of social media, movements and communities, more individuals than ever have opportunities to practice proven leadership principles and make a difference around them. Why? Not just because of they have easier access to a potential audience of followers… but because forums like Twitter offer them the chance to learn and shine by using the most powerful form of leadership – leading by example.

Leading by example means practicing what you preach. It means inspiring others to do what you do, not just what you say. It means becoming a lighthouse for your ideas and belief, that invites others to navigate by you. It also means being always thoughtful about the example you project – when everything is public, and on record, being exemplary is key to maintaining leadership.

Participating in Twitter is a fantastic way to grow great leadership skills as long as you approach it with a mindset open to others, and a desire to never stop learning. It’s great because of the instant feedback you will get from your ‘followers’ – it’s an accelerated learning playground for leaders.

Here’s the sort of leader you can become on Twitter… and beyond!

1. A LEADER WHO INSPIRESEither creating something new, or curating the best of what you read, Twiter is a fantastic opportunity to inspires others to think and act bigger; even better, it’s the perfect place to get others to join a community effort – such as @klout and @RealChaseAdams push to support @jeffin140′s mum.

2. A LEADER WHO GIVES – Twitter is a place where you can take – ideas, news, inspiration. Consider making it a place where you give – your time, your ideas, your experience – to benefit others and make them grow. This is the stuff Thought Leadership and inspiration are made of.

3. A LEADER WHO CHALLENGES - Getting others out of the comfort zone is a great service you can do them. Leaders are those who don’t just say what others want to hear, but know how to ask questions that challenge conventional wisdom. A kind that is less frequent than you might think on Twitter – where the easy way to be and stay popular to do is repeat (retweet) what the majority or “gurus” say. The challenging leader knows better.

4. A LEADER WHO STANDS HIS GROUND – Leaders have a point of view… and sometimes get criticized. Harshly. Leaders know what to fight for and defend what they believe in, even if it makes them unpopular. But having clear points of views will earn them respect with the right crowd, if not with everyone.

5. A LEADER WHO RALLIES – Twitter is a mess, let’s face it. It can feel like Grand Central station at rush hour, everyone busy going in his/her own direction. Leaders create stages others can rally around, and form communities from what would otherwise be chaos. #leadershipchat, #blogchat or #usguys are great examples – the role of the leader being to create a playground and ground rules… but then letting others play as they like!

6. A LEADER WHO FOLLOWS – Leadership is not trying to be “The Leader” every time, all the time. Sometimes – often in fact – the best leaders know how to take direction from others, and be part of a bigger team.

7. A LEADER WHO PAYS IT FORWARD - Leadership cannot be selfish. To be recognized by others, you need to be as generous with them as you want them to be with you (and each other). And the only way to make that happen is to demonstrate it up-front rather than wat for them to start. Pay-it forward by engaging in their conversations, responding to their ideas, retweeting their posts, and promoting them… before you.

8. A LEADER WHO RESPECTS – No leader can succeed in the long term by alienating and offending others. Twitter offers countless opportunities to do just that, because let’s face it, 140 characters with no non-verbal-cues, is a sure-fire recipe for every-day misunderstandings. Leaders on Twitter know how to go above and beyond “normal” to be inclusive, polite and respectful… making sure they listen, acknowledge others, and avoid unnecessary conflicts.

9. A LEADER WHO FORGIVES – Likewise, leaders know better than assume negative intent or take offense because of a bad interaction. No place for grudges in the heart of a leader.

10. A LEADER WHO APOLOGIZES – Finally, leaders are not those who never make mistakes, but the ones who know how to deal with them gracefully. Great counter examples can be found in the terrible way Groupon answered to the backlash on their SuperBowl ads, first blaming an agency for the dreadful creative work. A better example is Kenneth Cole final apology on Facebook, for his offensive Tweet during #Egypt uprisings – albeit a tad late in the day. True leaders acknowledge their mistakes and apologize, in a sincere way.

Over to you… What kind of leader will you be?

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  • http://HeidiCohen.com Heidi Cohen

    Tom–Thank you for participating in #BloggerLove Month! I love the way you created a list of 10 Twitter leadership lessons. The one other lesson I would add to the list is the leader who protects his tribe, such as the boss who will take the heat instead of throwing one of his team under the bus.

    Further the picture underscores your difference in background in a subtle way. Interesting choice the day after Mubarack stepped down in Egypt.

    Again, I appreciate your contribution to #BloggerLove Month.

    Happy marketing,
    Heidi Cohen

    • Anonymous

      That’s a good number 11 (I like turning dials to 11 ;-) )
      Thanks Heidi!
      Tom

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  • http://www.LisaPetrilli.com Lisa Petrilli

    Tom,

    Thank you so much for mentioning #LeadershipChat, and I fully agree with you in regard to leading by example. It’s the most powerful way to lead in my own experience. And you’re right – how we engage and treat others on Twitter is a reflection and example of our actions in the larger world.

    What a wonderful new initiative, Tom,

    Lisa Petrilli

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Lisa – We’ll try to keep that one alive for a long time, as you have with #leadership chat.
      Any thoughts for our next weekend?
      Tom

  • http://twitter.com/smartel Sylvain Martel

    Great and inspiring post Tom.

    Inspire, give, rally, respect, follow, challenge, pay it forward, …. You brought here a great demonstration of what makes a great leader in the online world takes roots in the offline world we live in.

    As long as I’m concerned, i want to be the human version of a leader, prioritizing people first, making sure i’m surrounded by the best and most brilliant people as possible, and to always keep in mind what are my strengths and more important, what are my weaknesses.

    This is true n my day-to-day life and this is the exact way i want to behave on Twitter or any other online social network.

    Again, great post Tom!
    SM

    • Anonymous

      100% with you Sylvain – key is always to surround yourself with the best people you can… who can push you to perform at your best and vice-versa. I’ve given up on being the best at everything a long time ago – that’s what teamwork is really for: everyone shining with their best skills, pulling everyone up.
      thanks for the comment Sylvain
      Tom

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  • http://twitter.com/Almost60Really Paula Lee Bright

    As always, Tom, a great post. I especially enjoyed the last bit where you pointed out the importance of a gracious apology. I really, really believe that! I always feel that a sincere apology can cover a much greater deal than trying to smooth things over any other way. I wonder what it is about that that makes it so hard for people? I learned it from a young age, but have found that many people haven’t bought into it yet.

    Sometimes I want to call to them (being older and therefore wiser [NOT!]): “Hey! Just say it. The sense of relief is immense, and it’s usually over then!” But I don’t, because although rude, I’m not quite that bad yet. (Or, maybe I am, huh, Chase?) ;)

    Thanks, Tom, for setting this up. I love #usblogs!

  • http://twitter.com/Almost60Really Paula Lee Bright

    As always, Tom, a great post. I especially enjoyed the last bit where you pointed out the importance of a gracious apology. I really, really believe that! I always feel that a sincere apology can cover a much greater deal than trying to smooth things over any other way. I wonder what it is about that that makes it so hard for people? I learned it from a young age, but have found that many people haven’t bought into it yet.

    Sometimes I want to call to them (being older and therefore wiser [NOT!]): “Hey! Just say it. The sense of relief is immense, and it’s usually over then!” But I don’t, because although rude, I’m not quite that bad yet. (Or, maybe I am, huh, Chase?) ;)

    Thanks, Tom, for setting this up. I love #usblogs!

    • Anonymous

      Quite surprising what a good apology can achieve to defuse a situation… and still how often people chose not to.
      Thanks for the comment Paula – see? it’s there!
      CHeers
      Tom

  • http://toddrjordan.com/thebroadbrush tojosan

    Twitter is a mess. <- love that statement.
    It is truly more than most can most can deal with. This leads to a constant swirl and churn. The same hold true for all of the burgeoning social networks.

    Leadership, though not always required where you must lead, is often not represented in people. Too many are willing to just be part of a rowdy rabble.

    Your post is a good call to action for would be leaders.
    Cheers!
    Todd
    @tojosan

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