The Social Media – Servant Leadership Dovetail

Servant Leadership on one plank and Social media on the other, dovetail togetherIn a recent interview with social media author and consultant, Paul Gillin, he described Servant Leadership and social media as “dovetailing”. This analogy summarized why I am so passionate about both topics. Social media enables, empowers and really, demands greater servant leadership.

Social Media Enables Open Servant Leadership

Social media represents the fourth generation of mass communication. The first generation was the Manual Mass Communication generation, prior to the printing press, all mass communications were verbal or hand written. With the printing press, we achieved the Mechanical Mass Communication generation, but it was still one-way and expensive – both in terms of time and effort. The third was Digital Mass Communication, in which we were able to mass produce inexpensive communications with email, the internet and other digital formats, but it remained a unilateral message. With social media, we finally enter the world of Mass Dialogue. With this evolution, leadership can listen far more effectively.

Social media enables servant leaders to have a mass dialogue with an open group of stakeholders. Even if the conversation is with a single person, that person’s message is ranked according to support from the community. The community can also follow that conversation.  Social media offers an unparalleled opportunity for leaders to listen to the community.

Social Media Empowers Servant Leadership

Servant Leadership requires the leader to be empathetic and authentic. Social media empowers these attributes for individuals. Specifically:

Empathetic: Through social media you can be more aware of stakeholder perspectives. You can also be more directly connected to the personal lives of employees and associates. While some may not want this, those who do, can easily connect.

Authentic: As you make key decisions, it’s easier than ever to share the logic behind those decisions. A leader who must cut benefits is perceived as heartless. However, that same leader, who cuts benefits to save jobs, is appreciated. Providing the motivation and intentions behind tough decisions is one way a leader can be more authentic through social media.

Advances in social media technology offers leaders a new toolbox with which to practice their art.

Social Media Demands Servant Leadership

Nowhere is the demand for greater leadership through social media more apparent than the Arab Spring. Social media plays a critical role in changing the leadership landscape of the Middle East. Said one activist:

“We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.”

Activists in the Middle East demand greater leadership through social media. As of this posting, rulers have been removed from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. What do the people demand through these social media platforms? Leaders who serve the people – not themselves. They demand Servant Leadership.

So why am I so passionate about Servant Leadership and social media? Because Servant Leadership is real leadership. Without serving others, you’re not leading. And, because social media enables, empowers and demands Servant Leadership. Because social media and Servant Leadership dovetail together.

Question: In what other ways do social media and Servant Leadership dovetail? You can leave a comment here.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

About the Author:

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder - the leading blog on servant leadership and top 35 site for any leadership topic, globally. Ben also speaks and consults on IT and management topics for a large variety of clients. Find out more about him at


  1. Thomas J. Lee June 14, 2013 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    I, too, am passionate about servant leadership, and I certainly do see instances in which social media have played an outsize role in bringing about change. That does not, however, tie the two in a causal relationship. Many fine servant leaders are all but oblivious to social media, and the overwhelming majority of social-media messages have more to do with ego gratification than with leadership of any sort, let alone servant leadership.

    • Ben Lichtenwalner June 23, 2014 at 2:34 pm - Reply

      Thomas, I agree. One does not necessarily assure the other. Social media is an amazing tool in the hands of a great servant leader – it does not make a person one.

  2. Phil Steitz June 18, 2013 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    Another way that social media supports servant leadership is that it provides a means for servant leadership relationships to survive employment affiliation change. In fact, I found this blog via a G+ post by a former colleague of mine.

    • Ben Lichtenwalner June 23, 2014 at 2:35 pm - Reply

      Thanks Phil – great point. It’s easier than ever before for someone to follow a leader – wherever they go.

  3. […] leadership awareness, adoption and action. He has a unique perspective on social media as a tool for greater leadership influence and writes often on the […]

  4. […] leadership awareness, adoption and action. He has a unique perspective on social media as a tool for greater leadership influence and writes often on the […]

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