Sapphire Leadership Symposium: Responsibilities on Social Media


By Lisa Witzig

Dr. Witzig serves as Fuel's CMO, has decades of consulting experience, and enjoys her role as a marketing professor at Colorado State as well. 

On 26 October, I had the pleasure of working with students who are selected for the Sapphire Leadership Academic Program in Penn State University's Smeal College of Business. I was asked to lead a session as part of the Sapphire Leadership Symposium, the program’s cornerstone event. My topic? I was assigned to discuss “leadership challenges with respect to social media and technology in the modern world.”

Wow. Nothing complicated or sensitive about that in today’s world, right?

After brainstorming and fleshing out dozens of ideas, I tore these up the day before the symposium. Instead, I was influenced by General Stanley McChrystal’s latest book on leadership, Leaders: Myth and Realityand decided to challenge my students to think differently about leadership. We did a very interactive facilitated session, instead of the more traditional lecture format.

I challenged my students to examine the intersection of leadership, follower-ship, and social media. We explored social media platforms, identified iconic leaders, created and skewered leadership traits, and assigned responsibilities to followers. Then, we created a framework for how leaders and followers should approach social media. 

It was a fantastic session with tons of energy, peaks and valleys, and unique insights. And, we did all of this in only 50 minutes.

By the end of the session, my student participants decided that when engaging online, leaders should:

  • Advocate for and support others
  • Be honest
  • Set an example
  • Motivate followers

My students decided that followers have a role online, too, and they should:

  • Analyze what they’re seeing and reading using critical thinking skills
  • Boost and support people
  • Choose to follow wisely
  • Take action when they see or sense something, either positive or negative

By the end of the session, I saw a pronounced shift in my group of 50 students — they embraced their own responsibility and accountability online. They recognized the importance of their actions as followers, in addition to being strong leaders. Their framework provides a strong set of principles that work for everyone in these challenging times. I, for one, will adopt it.   

This post is part of a series of consulting tips brought to you by Fuel’s own consultants. Want more? Peruse our blog, and follow us on Twitter.

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