10 Characteristics of a Social Leader

Qualities of a Social Leader in Business

On June 14, I had the great fortune to attend the Working Mother Media 2nd Annual Women’s Leadership Summit on the Business of Social Media in New York City. The sessions were as informative as they were engaging, the panelists were bright, driven and compelling, and the networking opportunities were fantastic.

Here are some key takeaways from this amazing day.


20% customer satisfaction improvement by companies using social (Sandy Carter, IBM)

54% of companies expect to support their customer service processes with social capabilities within two years.*

57% of consumers always go to social first to resolve an issue (Elizabeth Closmore, Sprinklr)

64% of teens with Twitter accounts say their tweets are public (Catherine Mathis, S&P)

73% of CEOs today feel that social is the #1 customer engagement tool (Sandy Carter, IBM)

During a session on social ROI, Elizabeth Closmore from Sprinklr said, “This isn’t social media anymore. It’s social business.” Wow. That could have been the tagline for the entire conference. In a white paper from IBM (a conference sponsor), they report that “There are leaders across specific industries who do understand that social business represents an enormous opportunity to … fuel substantial value creation.”

So, what does it take to be a social leader?

10 Characteristics of a Social Leader **


1. Transparent:  What does it really mean to be transparent when it comes to social business? Transparency is a building block of social strategies. It means that you are not afraid to hide who you are or who you work for and that you’re willing to open up yourself (and company) to a boundless audience.

2. Breaks down silos:  Social leaders don’t like corporate silos. They encourage collaboration across teams, departments, disciplines and geography, and the use of social tools to support the collaboration.

3. Authentic:  This is another word that is often thrown around when speaking about social. I thought it meant the same thing as transparent; however, transparent is more about being open, while authentic is more about being honest.

4. Likeable:  Social leaders are, well, sociable. People like working with them and being around them. They inspire, lead and are approachable.

5. Collaborative:  Encouraging the use of social in effort to be more collaborative is important to social leaders.

6. Quick decision maker:  If you have to wait a year to make big decisions, you’ll be behind. Social leaders can quickly assess, analyze and make decisions.

7. Explorer of new tools:  With the technology changing all of the time and the emergence of new sites, platforms and technologies, the social leader seeks to understand what’s going  and stay on top of industry trends.

8. Active networker: Social creates the opportunity to expand your network and maintain ongoing communications. Leaders in social business know how to tap into the power of social media to forge meaningful connections.

9. Seeks out new ideas:  I think this one ties back to #7 … but in addition to new tools, social leaders want to learn from thought leaders in other businesses or industries, and seek out knowledge from a variety of sources.

10. Passionate about engagement:  Isn’t this what it’s all about? Engaging our teams, employees, customers and communities. If you’re not passionate about engaging, you’re probably not going to be passionate about social business.

Interested in more insights from the conference?

Check out Lisa Bonner’s article on “Top Companies Leverage Internal Social Networks” or search Twitter using #WMSocial and follow @WMConferences.

 What do you make of all these new statistics?


* IBM | Social Business Patterns in achieving social business success, April 2013
** From co-chair remarks by Sandy Carter, VP of Social Business Evangelism and Sales, IBM Corporation

Shannon Smedstad

Shannon Smedstad has nearly 20 years of recruitment, employer branding, and communications experience. Currently, she serves as the Principal Employer Brand Strategist at exaqueo. Previously, she held employer branding and recruiting leadership roles at CEB and GEICO. She’s a work at home mom raising two awesome girls who also enjoys reading, running, leading a Girl Scout troop, and her morning coffee. You can connect with Shannon on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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