Calling Senior Leaders in Government to Action

A global transformation is happening and it has all to do with social media. Coined by Erik Qualman’s Socialnomics it represents “the biggest shift since the Industrial Revolution.” But has this shift shaken the bowels of government? Are senior leaders buying into the social media phenomenon? The truth: senior leaders are often resistant to altering the way information is conveyed, despite the public’s yearning for active engagement.

Part of what makes the U.S. unique is in our advancement of good governance through citizen participation. Yet this doesn’t achieve much unless people’s voices are heard by receptive ears. For social media to impact government bureaucracies, it must be coupled by changes in the way government institutions work. But it’s not enough to just setup profiles and sit back for a response. Integrating social media is a process much like anything else in government; it requires a strategy, sustained leadership, the will to connect with the people, and dedication of resources.

Despite the “known” implications for social media—communication, transparency, and collaboration—senior leaders are often naive as to how social media can maximize their role in government. They must achieve performance outcomes and increase accountability; communicate across boundaries and hierarchies; coordinate internal and external functions, and; maximize efficiency and effectiveness to the public. Engaging the public through social media—like Twitter and online polling to survey citizens, or Facebook to highlight news, information and events—can place social leaders at the helm of this revolution in government.

Don’t get me wrong. Success of social media use is not a guarantee. It cannot simply change the mentality of leaders who don’t view the citizen as a valued participant of government, nor can the best strategy accomplish this. The change factor lies in the leader. It lies in those with a vision and understanding of good governance. We need buy-in from the top and participation from the bottom to fully achieve collaboration with social media. While the jury is still out and senior leaders are hesitant to adopt social media, where do we go from here?

Leila Sadeghi, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor with the Center for Executive Leadership in Government, at Rutgers University.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Dannielle Blumenthal

Hi Dr. Sadeghi – I share your enthusiasm about social media but as someone who works in government disagree with your assertions about government leaders. I have personally seen tremendous excitement about what social media can do. However this is balanced by caution about the risks from many perspectives, including security, IT compliance, reputation, and so on. What I think would be helpful would be an overarching government framework or template for policy that applies to all agencies, that individual agencies could then adopt, similar to how GSA negotiated agreements with social media providers that other agencies could simply use. Sometimes what seems like resistance is simply a need for permission in an environment where the rules are unclear.

Henry Brown

Am going to suggest not only do we need buy-in from the top but buy-in from the middle as well. And by buy-in I do NOT mean lip-service. It is the middle managers who are going to have to motivate everyone to participate

Dannielle Blumenthal

Bottom line, govt is a business. When the customer wants social media either the business will provide it or the customer will react unhappily, either forcing the issue or finding another supplier of needed services. I think that right now, there is confusion over who the customer is, what they want, how to fulfill the need appropriately, ethics issues, funding, etc. It is easy to lay blame but ultimately more useful to find workable solutions … I think that should be the focus.

Sterling Whitehead

Information published on social media can be wrong, but this is nothing new. Newspapers publish crappy info all the time. They often issue a correction (although most people won’t notice it).

So how do we make sure info published on social media is accurate? Some of the answer will be looking to credible sources — established bloggers, journalists, etc. Other will be citing your information. Really, it’s not too different from the Print Era. (We’ve already figured it out — we’re just too stupid to notice. Ha.)

Keith Moore

Leila, global transformation through social media is a phenomena with a long life cycle. Possibly for the next 50 years. Success of social media tools should not rest on acceptance by leaders of generations who did not “invent’ this tool. Success is measured by how effectively the tool is implemented throughout the globe to effect CHANGE.

Srinidhi Boray

Forget calling the soo called leaders, work with the grass-root they are the ones who will make the transformation possible since they are the ones holding on the lesser end of the bargain. This transformation will be systemic shift working for the grass root.