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Women in Leadership and the Role of Social Media

Apr 09, 2013 | Updated Jun 09, 2013
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When I think about women in leadership, I think of people like Katie Couric, Hillary Clinton, Nora Ephron -- women who have risen to the top of their industry. But beyond the 'big names' there are many quiet success stories going on in social media that we never hear about -- the connections that happen from one professional to another at a conference, to the mom's support groups, to the women in tech communities.

Quiet victories. Lifting each other up. Connecting each other.

Social media has given women a unique opportunity to encourage and support one another like never before. Madeleine Albright has famously said, "There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women." I couldn't agree more.

There has been a lot of talk lately about "leaning in" -- thanks in part to Sheryl Sandberg's new book. Long before Sheryl said it, I have always been a believer in leaning in. A large part of the success I have had, I had can attribute to leaning in with everything I had. I worked early mornings, evenings, and weekends. I went the extra mile. I asked for the connections, the introductions. I asked for the pay raises. I still lean in every day.

I asked and I asked again. Sometimes the answer was yes, and sometimes the answer was no. But the point is, I am not afraid to ask.

With that work ethic comes a healthy dose of mommy guilt. I don't know one mom who doesn't have a twinge of guilt every now and then -- whether they are CEO of a corporation, their own business or of their household. Every time I step on a plane or on a stage, I always think about my boys and wonder if I am missing something. However, I also know that the reward of leaning in is that it has now allowed me more flexibility with my schedule. Running my own company allows me to make choices that are best for my business, my family and me.

Redefining the workday

The real opportunity for women in a leadership role is to start redefining the workday. With the majority of upper management positions held by men, we are living in a world that is very old school and is ripe for change.

We are still living in a world where many of us have to go into the office every day -- even with the advances in technology. Where we have endless meetings about meetings, where it is mandated that we all have to be in the same room. Where companies ban employees using Facebook and Twitter, while failing to acknowledge that some of their biggest advocates and fans are within the four walls of the organization.

What gets me excited about having more women in leadership positions is the ability to change the status quo -- to change how we look and define work. Isn't it time we changed what the average workday looked like?

What you see is what you get

Every one one of us has a unique opportunity to be an influencer and a leader. I don't live my life in black and white -- professional over here and personal over there. I don't have multiple social media accounts; some are for only some of my friends and some for my colleagues. What you see is what you get. I talk about my family, my boys, my love of wine as much if not more, than I talk about my professional achievements.

When you start to talk about leadership -- and the role social media has for men and women -- what will stand the test of time is authenticity. Being real. Connecting. Caring. You have to be willing to wake up and can't wait to see the conversations that you get to be a part of.

You can't have 'success' in social media without that.

You have to passionately care about the people who want to connect with you. You have to be intentional and laser focused.

So how do we achieve all of this? We live in a world where we are always on 24 hours a day. There are a few guiding principals that I live and breathe day in and day out.

  • Under promise and over deliver. Surprise and delight people when you under promise.

  • Be ruthlessly authentic. Be real, you can't fake that.
  • Be a connector selflessly. Look for those opportunities to connect others - especially other women.
  • Why are there so few CEOs on social media?

    In addition to changing the way work gets done, there is a huge opportunity for C-Level executives to engage in social -- not just women but all leaders. Why aren't they? Is it fear? Lack of understanding? Time? Many times it is all of the above.

    The companies who will rise to the top in this new digital age are the CEOs and C-Level executives who put themselves out there, and connect with their biggest fans (and critics) in the social space.

    Everyone wants to know that you care. That you are listening. If you are a CEO reading this you have a profound opportunity to listen and have a two-way conversation like never before. People want to be listened to. Are you listening?

    I talk a lot about the concept of #NoTweetLeftBehind. That's right -- every message, every notification, every comment gets acknowledged. This is where I see a huge opportunity for leaders, especially women to step up their game. These tweets and comments are messages that will make you laugh, make you angry, and make you proud of what you do.

    So where does this leave us? Start by doing what you love. Lean in and then lean in some more. And while you are leaning in, see who you can help along the way -- because the more we help each other -- especially women helping other women, only makes our success all the more sweeter. No one ever got to the top alone.

    Raise your hand and ask for what you want. Remember, that place where you are scared is a good place to be. Don't let others make decisions for you. Indecision is really the worst decision of all -- so stand talk, take a stand and fall utterly and completely in love with what you do.

    We are at the very beginning of this journey with social media, and I firmly believe it is because of social media and the doors it has opened, we will see a new dawn of leadership in our lifetime -- which includes women as part of the conversation at every level of leadership in the world.

    This is our time. This is our moment! Let's seize it!