Here are some frequently asked questions that are asked about The Engaged Leader. If you have a question that isn’t listed here, add them in the comments below or please get in touch!
Q: Is this a generational issue? Are folks over the age of 40 going to just be not as good at this as someone in their 20’s or 30’s?
A: There’s no doubt that younger adults are more comfortable using digital and social channels, and have it integrated deeply into their lives. That said, they are not experienced as leaders and struggle with how to lead in general, let alone digitally. In contrast, the challenge for more experienced leaders is figuring out how to extend their leadership through digital and social engagement. I frankly think it’s a lot easier to teach an experienced leader how digital can help them extend their leadership, than it is to teach someone with deep digital knowledge how to be a good leader. Every example in the book is of a engaged leader over the age of 40 — and many of them did not come to it naturally nor easily.
Q: Many of the examples in the book are of large companies. How is it different for small and medium sized businesses?
A: The biggest difference is scale. Leaders in large enterprises simply have more employees, more business units, and larger geographies to worry about. This doesn’t make your job as a leader any easier — in fact, your engagement is even more essential because a coherent engaged leader strategy has greater potential impact on a smaller organization.
Q: What are the most frequent excuses you hear from executives — and how can I rebut them?
A: Here are a few favorites, and the responses you can use to extend the conversation.
- “I don’t have the time.” Listening to your customers and employees is one of the most important things you can do. What does it say to “not have the time” to listen to them? Share and engage with them? By inaction, you are saying that they don’t matter. Let’s see if there’s a way that your activities create value, reduce the need to do other things, and in the end save you time. If so, we should be doing it.
- “It’s not about me.” You’re right, it’s not about you. It’s about your leadership — what you believe is important for the organization to be focused on, and how we are doing against our goals. We need to hear from you as a leader, be inspired by you.
- “It doesn’t replace face to face.” There is no substitute for shaking someone’s hand, looking them in the eye, and asking, “Are we good?” But you can’t do that regularly with every single employee. Being an engaged leader is figuring out how you can build trust in relationships via digital and social channels. Trust is established when you listen, share, and engage with intent and purpose, and inspire your followers to go where you lead.
- “It’s marketing’s job.” Sure, it’s marketing’s job to execute on communicating the purpose, mission, and brand value. The best leaders are also great communicators and they learn to use the latest technologies to extend their leadership into these channels. Make sure it is your personal leadership voice that is getting out — then partner with marketing to figure out the nuts and bolts of using the right channels to get that message out.
- “Who cares what I had for lunch?” No one probably, unless you are in the food business. What customers, employees, and other stakeholders really want to know is what you talked about during lunch. What are your priorities? What are you focused on, working on? What’s your take on what we are doing well, where we need to improve? Rather than have them guess what’s important to you, tell them.
- “I don’t want to get the company in trouble.” Leaders sometimes jump to the worst case scenario, where a well-intended action goes completely awry and ends up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Reassure them that to get started, they are just going to listen. And we’ll use that as a starting point to share, and eventually, find the right opportunities to engage. The last thing anyone wants is for them to get in trouble — and an intentional, strategic plan will help them avoid those kinds of missteps.
Q: Are women better at this than men? Is there anything that women need to do differently?
A: Women are more likely to use and engage in social channels, and thus may feel more comfortable sharing in this channels. But all bets are off when it comes to being an engaged leader. Some women (and men as well) struggle with asserting authority in their leadership practice, and digital engagement often closes the power distance that women work hard to establish. It’s all the more important for women to have a plan on how they will listen, share, and engage strategically as a leader to accomplish their goals. Women also face a delicate balance when sharing about personal aspects of their lives. I’ve seen some women criticized for sharing personally, as it was perceived as manipulating emotions. That’s frustrating because a man sharing personally is perceived as being open and empathetic. My advice to women is that in the same way we have to be hyper-aware of how we come across as leaders in real life, we have to think through how we lead digitally.
Q: Does being an engaged leader apply in different countries and cultures? This concept feels very “Western” and Silicon Valley-ish.
A: Leadership styles differ not only from country to country, but also between organizations within countries. Every leader needs to listen, share, and engage — the book just lays out a way to develop your own personal strategy of how to do this in digital and social channels. Some of the least engaged, isolated leaders I know can be found in Silicon Valley — and I know of many engaged leaders in culturally hierarchical countries like Brazil and Japan.
Do you have other questions you’d like to see included in here? Please send them along via my contact page.