On October 27, 2022, the world of social media changed when billionaire Elon Musk took over Twitter. Some are calling it the end of the platform as we know it. In fact, Twitter lost nearly 900,000 users in the 7 days following Musk’s takeover. It’s clear they all knew something was going to change in our beloved Twittersphere. But how? How do so many people have that same ominous feeling about the future of a platform we’ve grown to love and dedicate an embarrassing amount of time to?
Because we know the Elon Musk leadership brand. Under Musk’s leadership as CEO of Tesla Motors, the company has been accused of countless human rights violations and a culture of racism that resulted in a $137 million lawsuit in 2017, among others. With a legacy of turning a blind eye to injustices at Tesla, 5 years later on the day of Musk’s purchase of Twitter, according to the National Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), the use of the N-word on the platform increased by 500%. This occurrence indicates this isn’t just unfortunate circumstance following Musk, but rather it is a brand that he’s built and allowed to remain– invisible and unspoken, but it’s there.
So, what does this mean for you as a leader in your organization, you may be wondering? It means there’s some invisible, unspoken brand out there following you. And more importantly, it means people are watching you and will emulate your brand when given the opportunity. Being a leader, you set the pace for what your organization is and what it should be. If your personal brand indicates you may turn a blind eye to inequity, why would your team report a sensitive situation to you or your HR team? On the other hand, if you’re someone who is intentional about inclusion, even personally, it signals to your team that you do not tolerate insensitivity and they shouldn’t either. You’re the one people are going to follow, so here are a few ways you can make sure the people have the right example:
Do the work yourself.
If you want to set the right example, it’s important not to just perform the role of ‘A Worthy Leader.’ You have to be one, and that might take a little work. Take note of where you might have some blind spots; challenge your beliefs. There are tons of books, podcasts, and online trainings that can help you transform from talking about it to being about it.
They must know you to know what you’re about.
Executive leaders can be celebrities; shielded away from the “regular people.” Take a step out of the penthouse and be a familiar face among your company. In order for people to want to follow your example, they have to know who they’re following. It’s one thing to hear about your leadership’s commitment to DEI in stale company-wide emails, but it’s another to see and interact with executive team members and see for yourself what they value.
Create a culture of accountability.
Often we think of accountability as impending consequences. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, right? But accountability is not about being in trouble; it’s an acknowledgment of shortcomings and clarity about expectations for the future. It can be as simple as a conversation. Without accountability, you’re just an exception to the status quo. With accountability, you’re the one changing the tide for everyone to head in the right direction.
As a leader, all eyes are on you, whether you like it or not. Let Twitter be our modern-day, real-time case study. You can be like Elon Musk who allows his invisible, unspoken brand of cruelty and ego to lead, and his companies’ cultures follow suit. Or you can take some time to self-reflect, get to know the people around you, and set up a system of accountability in order to ensure you’re a leader worthy of being followed. The choice is yours.
Let’s do more good. To get more results. To have more impact.
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