Twitter Chats, Leadership, and Fantastic Ideologies: A Rant

Yesterday, I came across a blog post from business blogger Ted Coine titled “Is It Too Late For Today’s CEOs?” It was an observation on the current state of today’s CEOs compared with those of the past century. The general theme of the post can be summed up as “20th Century CEOs and their tired philosophies are out and the 21st Century CEOs are gonna be better, stronger, faster" (kind of like "The Six Million Dollar Man"). A blog post based on ideology with the sole intention of getting an “Amen” from the social media “evangelists”, nothing more. But that's how you get to be a "thought leader" these days, yes?

Turns out that the same Mr. Coine also happened to be the guest moderator of last night’s #LeadershipChat on twitter (which takes place Tuesday nights at 8pm ET). The chat, which focuses on leadership principles and best practices, is the brainchild of Lisa Petrilli and Steve Woodruff, two of the really, really, really good people on the social space. I hope they don't hate me after this.

If you spend any amount of time on the chat, you'll quickly realize that its common theme is usually something along the lines of how in a perfect world, today’s leaders and their teams would all be gathered around a giant bonfire, holding hands and singing Kumbaya while passing the social media bong pipe. Leaders are made of sugar and spice and everything nice on #Ledershipchat. Not usually my cup of tea but I guess it's OK to dream about a kinder, gentler leader, right? Moreover, it offers a wonderful outlet for my pent up snark. But back to Mr. Coine…

Lee Iaccoca

The theme of this week’s chat was The Future of Leadership. And, again, it was the usual banter about how “21st-Century leaders understand power of enlightened self-interest”  and how “in the new social world, employees follow their leaders because they want to”  and the infamous “leaders think of their team first and themselves second” (it just ain’t #Leadershipchat until that one shows up). But as the chat was nearing the end, this brief exchange between Mr. Coine and myself took place:

Wow. Needless to say, I was rather surprised that Mr. Coine would really think that being ethical and putting people first had been egregiously omitted from the leadership practices of the past century. I mean, everybody’s entitled to their opinions, yes? But seriously, to throw such a huge blanket of indifference over all the leaders of the 20th century? But then I remembered that this was a chat on twitter. I mentally kicked myself for failing to realize that those types of statements are common in twitter chats. Silly me.

You see, most twitter chats are rife with fantastic ideology; how social media is gonna lead us, hand-in-hand to a better world. A world where our leaders listen more and talk less; a world where each and every member of the team really care about one another, a world where no team member is left behind (mission be damned!). A brave new world where the likes of Steve Jobs, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, Walt Disney, Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, Bill Gates, former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca, Warren Buffet, George Merck, former Boeing president and Chairman William Allen, Richard Branson, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Walmart CEO Sam Walton, Henry Ford, Mahatma Gandhi, former Johnson & Johnson CEO James Burke, and the rest of the unethical leaders of the 20th century, would surely fail.

I’m sure that Ted Coine is a really nice guy. His profile pic emits warmth and friendliness, and he’s quite the handsome devil. But dear Mr. Coine, before you start calling out the leaders of the 20th century in favor of a generation of still unproven leaders, remember this: the great leaders are focused on results [duh?] and it will always be about results. And to think that the aforementioned leaders achieved theirs via surreptitious methods and/or by dumping on people is...well, pretty dang foolish. So why don’t you first wait and see what your 21st century leaders pull off before “dissing” a generation of leaders who have already built and rebuilt fortune 500 companies, fought for their country's independence, and led 250,000 people on a march to Washington D.C.; all without the aid of facebook or twitter.

But then it wouldn’t be a twitter chat, would it? No, no it wouldn’t.

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