Twitter – essential leadership tool or optional extra?

Twitter – essential leadership tool or optional extra?

This week I heard two very different takes on the role of Twitter in the context of leadership:

An NHS graduate trainee happened to mention that the Leadership Academy encouraged her and her cohort to get on Twitter. The scheme has its own Twitter account @NHSGradScheme and a hashtag for the cohort #NHSgrad2013.

A senior manager happened to mention in a leadership workshop that Twitter and blogging wasn’t for them.

I was struck by this contrast. At one end of the spectrum an expectation set that future NHS leaders engage with social networking. At the other end of the spectrum an implied view that social networking is optional and can be given a miss.

So if we are expecting our future leaders to participate then should we also be expecting our established leaders to do the same? And what are the risks for those who decide to opt out – what do they lose and what might they gain?

I guess there was a time when it was optional to have an email account in an office job – and then the moment arrived when it became a ubiquitous communication tool – a tipping point occurred when it became the norm for day-to-day communication. Of course now email is becoming rather passé and no doubt Twitter will too in due course.

So perhaps the more important question is – do leaders have a responsibility to continually develop themselves, keep abreast of new ways in which their staff and clients/customer communicate, understand the opportunities and manage the risks? I would argue that they do. I wonder if the time will arrive soon when it isn’t ok to choose to opt out of social networking. What do you think?

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  1. Hello!
    We all have communication preferences. I, for example, like to meet people who I’m working with on projects, at least one before moving off to more impersonal conference calls, but not everyone thinks that thats an efficient use of time 🙂
    The trouble with asking this question here is its a space filled with enthusiasts and you are unlikely to hear dissent with your view.
    I think we should be more generous in our respect for difference. This is, for me, about personal preference. I love it here, I suspect I have a natural instinct for digital. But i am not sure everyone does. So my view in summary is that everyone should understand this place but not everyone should have to engage here – its choice likely to be related to preferences. X

    • Thank you for your comments Annie and apologies for taking ages to respond. I think you make a really good point about people likely to read this post being those most likely to be enthusiasts for social media. I agree that some people are likely to get on with different social media platforms more than others. And I also believe that clinicians increasingly need to understand social media spaces to do their job well. I think it’s hard to do this without experiencing it though. Perhaps it’s like saying that people have to understand about books but don’t have to read them – reading a book will give you a deeper understanding that just being aware of what one is. I wonder if a tipping point will arrive when it isn’t ok not to engage – it’s certainly increasingly being build in to the curriculum for student clinicians and my children couldn’t imagine a world without it.


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