View from the Cold Fire Creek dogsled near Jasper Alberta (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

If you’re not the lead sled dog, the view never changes.
Cold Fire Creek dogsled near Jasper Alberta (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

So there I am, holed up in my house on a Friday evening thanks to bad weather and general ennui, and I see a tweet go by from prolific business book author Tom Peters (remember In Search of Excellence?)

He tweeted this social business question:

“Can you have a ‘social business’ if the CEO doesn’t play? I border on saying/believing ‘No way.’ (And you?)”

My tweet back to him was, “No. Starts at the top.”

Peters responded to me: “We need to refine ‘start.’ Somebody/s, often from a remote/small unit, have got to demo small successes to the big cheese.”

This gave me the mental image of yet another determined junior employee trying to convince an organization’s powers-that-be that social communications (now also available in everyone’s purse or pocket on a mobile device) has completely changed the game….completely changed how people find information, network, provide customer service….on and on.

My question is, why the hell is this not obvious already to ANY organization’s leadership?

Why aren’t the top dogs including the CEO out front leading the way? Isn’t that their cotton-picking job? It’s not as though these seismic changes are so new.

A leader’s job is to be quite the opposite of dumb slow and oblivious.

In my particular corner of the world – tourism and destination marketing – I still hear too often about bosses who “just don’t get it” but worse, don’t even try to get it. Within the last few weeks I met a hotel marketing person whose boss allows her roughly 15 minutes a day for social media on behalf of the hotel.

My guess: that marketing person will ditch that hotel as soon as she can find a position that appreciates her.

Back in 2010 I wrote about brain drain in the travel and tourism industries; people getting fed up about having to work for thick-headed bosses who can’t see the future – heck, the present! – staring them in the face.

We’ve made some progress, but not nearly enough.

If you’re a boss, it’s your job to lead, even when circumstances are scary or confusing (in fact, farsighted leadership is even more critical when things are scary and confusing.) If you don’t understand social media and how it changes things, then set aside your ego, roll up your sleeves and learn.

If you’re an employee, do your best to mentor and educate upwards, but organizations that stubbornly cling to the wrong path in the face of a changing world do not deserve your efforts. Get out.

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