P. Hind, V. Holton

Ashridge Executive Education at Hult International Business School (UNITED KINGDOM)
The impact of social media on leadership behaviours and development is the title of a research study conducted by Ashridge Executive Education in partnership with UNICON. The research is looking at two key areas, namely:

How are key attributes of leadership being reshaped through social media use?
Are new approaches to leadership development needed in our social media rich world?

The phenomena that is social media has radically changed the nature of human interaction and impacted on the quantity and the nature of information we exchange with others. The impact of this on leaders is not simply a practical one of using social media platforms to reach potential followers and spread their message. It may be that our social media experiences are fundamentally changing the concept of what we understand leadership to be – particularly through major changes to how relationships are managed. The study investigated whether the leadership practices of those familiar and competent with social media differ from those less comfortable with these means of communicating and influencing. If so, how far do we need to rethink the pedagogy of leadership development? Primary data was gathered in a multi-method approach including: a virtual inquiry workshop; a focus group with MBA students; interviews with leaders fluent in using social media and those less fluent, and a survey (n=50) assessing different aspects of leadership and social media.

Early results indicate that increased use of social media to lead others may have implications for the key leadership attributes of communicating a vision, developing trust and achieving with and through others. There may also be a tension between the increased personal visibility needed to use social media effectively, and increased personal risk and vulnerability. It is important to understand how social media is disrupting executive education and to identify key opportunities for those who provide leadership development.