Clearly, these are early days. Most companies recognize social media as a disruptive force that will gather strength rather than attenuate. But social-media literacy as we define it here is not yet an element of leadership-competency models or of performance reviews and reward systems. Equally, it has not yet found its way into the curricula of business schools and leadership-development programs.
This needs to change. We are convinced that organizations that develop a critical mass of leaders who master the six dimensions of organizational media literacy will have a brighter future. They will be more creative, innovative, and agile. They will attract and retain better talent, as well as tap deeper into the capabilities and ideas of their employees and stakeholders. They will be more effective in collaborating across internal and external boundaries and enjoy a higher degree of global integration. They will benefit from tighter and more loyal customer relationships and from the brand equity that comes with them. They will be more likely to play leading roles in their industries by better leveraging the capabilities of their partners and alliances in cocreation, codevelopment, and overall industry collaboration. And they will be more likely to create new business models that capitalize on the potential of evolving communications technologies.
It takes guts to innovate radically in leadership and organization, for legacy systems, cultures, and attitudes are powerful forces of inertia. Fortunately, the inherent quality of social media is a powerful transformational force. Social-media engagement will confront leaders with the shortcomings of traditional organizational designs. Leaders who address these shortcomings will learn how to develop the enabling infrastructure that fosters the truly strategic use of social technologies. When organizations and their leaders embrace the call to social-media literacy, they will initiate a positive loop allowing them to capitalize on the opportunities and disruptions that come with the new connectivity of a networked society. And they will be rewarded with a new type of competitive advantage.