Five rules for leaders on Twitter

Five rules for leaders on Twitter

Your Twitter interactions impact real life.
Steward them well.

Senior leadership is a different ball game with different rules.

When I was a younger man and at the beginning of my career I labored under a significant illusion. I thought that occupying a position of senior leadership would allow me to speak my mind. I’d finally be free, unconstrained, to say what I wanted, when I wanted, about whatever bugged me.

I could not have been more wrong. 

When, at the age of 39, I moved into senior leadership at a large church I quickly (like in the first month) realized that I had been deluding myself. Speaking my mind 24/7 would have been a recipe for disaster alienating those around me, but more importantly alienating those I was seeking to lead and serve. What had failed to realized is that people listen to positional leaders in a different way. 

In middle management I had the luxury of things I said being perceived simply as my opinions. As a manager I had position and influence but lacked the ability to fully implement anything I said. As a director people perceived–rightly or wrongly–that what I said was not only my opinion, but the way things were going to be. 

An observation could easily be perceived as a policy proposal. And the truth is, especially during stressful times, people hear what they want to hear. As a leader your job is to mitigate the chances of counter-productive messaging.

Five rules for leaders on Twitter.

  1. Use the 1-5-5-1 rule. Write once. Read fives times. Edit five times. Post once. If you’re in too much of a rush to read five times, don’t post it. You’re being lazy. If you can’t get clear with five edits. Forget it. You don’t know what you’re trying to say.
  2. Write for posterity. Sure, Twitter is fleeting. You write a tweet and forget it. Others don’t. The ease of screen shots means that a five second comment can live in infamy for the rest of your career.
  3. Don’t sub-tweet. Sub-tweeting is “a post that refers to a particular user without directly mentioning them.” When you subtweet you run the risk of those you work with assuming (rightly or wrongly) that you’re writing about someone at work (or worse), possibly them. If you’ve got something to say, say it in person.
  4. If you start a spat, count the cost. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get into spats with other people on Twitter. What I am saying is that when you do there is a cost, trade-off. Be aware that in getting 25 people to like your Tweet you might be alienating 250. Is that really a win?
  5. Assume the best. If someone disagrees with you, it’s likely not because they’re a wicked person. Assume the best and ask honest questions. The best minds can pose questions that allow the conversation partner to reveal their true character.

Leaders should care about more than quick point-scoring.

Good leaders are in it for the long-term and not to quickly build a following on the basis of point-scoring from others. Good leaders care about those around them–including those they interact with on Twitter–and desire to positively influence them. It’s always good to remember that our fight or flight response was designed for saber tooth tigers, not conversations on Twitter.