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Barry Libert, on how use of social media empowers women in the workplace

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Over the summer, I asked SmartBrief on Social Media readers if social media was something anyone could become great at — and 49% said they agreed with the statement, “It takes a certain kind of personality to excel at social media.” The results left me wondering what that “certain kind of personality” might look like — and where that leaves the rest of us.

Barry Libert, chairman and CEO of Mzinga and author of “Social Nation: How to Harness the Power of Social Media to Attract Customers, Motivate Employees, and Grow Your Business,” has written about the role of feminine strengths in the workplace. I asked him about the role these traits play in social-media excellence — and what those traits mean for women (and men) in the workplace. Here’s what he had to say:

What qualities do you feel some women possess that make them well-suited for using social-media tools?

Recent research shows that women are more caring, compassionate and willing to say that they are sorry when they make a mistake and to acknowledge others compared to men. In a socially networked society, which is open and connected, we are starting to have one set of values, with the same language in business and at home, with the important attributes of caring and acknowledgment.

Are women naturally better than men at social media?

No. Social media opens up communications to all people — both men and women — and enables the free exchange of information among and between people. By connecting with each other, we will be able to learn and share our life experiences and knowledge.

What makes you think women tend to be more nurturing and community-centered than men?

A recent book by McKinsey-based authors and researchers reveals that woman leaders closely link personal renewal and joy to talent selection and their desire to lead. In particular, the authors’ highlight five primary attributes that great women leaders use (which can be equally applied by male leaders) to help their organizations realize their full potential:

1.Meaning to generate positive emotions among their constituents and enable the leaders to impact their people in positive, creative and profound (personal) ways.
2.Framing issues clearly, so that their people can adopt and move forward with positive (versus negative) feelings and actions.
3.Connecting people so that collaboration with colleagues and supporters through warmth and humanity is at the center of their activities and processes.
4.Engaging individual voices in open dialogues so that their constituents needs can be heard and because they are heard, their needs are met.
5.Energizing people by tapping into their emotions and social interactions based on their own experience as family members (e.g. mothers, daughters, and wives).

How do those qualities play out in the workplace?

Collective intelligence, crowdsourced innovation and open collaboration have been recognized to improve both top and bottom-line results for organizations. In a study by MIT and Carnegie Mellon, the amount of collective intelligence and community collaboration is directly correlated to the number of women in the group, company or organization. This ability to collaborate and create collective intelligence will be more important as our world becomes more and more connected — sharing what works and what doesn’t in business, finance, health care and government.

What does the rise of social media mean for women in the workforce?

Simply, women will have a voice that will be hard to ignore, given their sheer number and presence online. Further, women can use social-media tools like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, discussion forums, chat rooms, and ideation tools to surface their ideas, friend others to reinforce their message and create small and large online communities to ensure that their point of view and diversity of opinion is fully understood. In time, it is my hope that the traditional values of men — including competing, winning and beating — will be integrated with the values that women bring to our society and which have long been shunned — including caring, sharing and nurturing — so that both set of voices and values are heard and embraced as important.

Are these genetic traits some women share or cultural values that some women choose to adopt?

Both. According to the research done by the University of Texas at Austin, some of these attributes are genetic. It is clear from the research, that these attributes can be developed and used by men as well in today’s online world to achieve outstanding results.

If more women take possessions of authority at major companies, what do you expect this will mean for those businesses?

The research shows that revenues and profits will increase as diversity in leadership does (e.g. more women join the ranks of men). Further, the impact on collaboration, collective intelligence and open and accelerated innovation will be enhanced for all organizations.

Would the economy look different if more major companies were led by women?

Yes, I believe organizations and governments will be more collaborative, transparent and compassionate as women join the ranks of corporate and government leadership –because of their values and what motivates them — all based on the research covered in this Q-and-A, as well as much more research which is not included here.

What can men (and women who don’t think of themselves as nurturing or community-centered) do to embrace a social-media-compatible leadership style?

It’s time for male leaders to accept the fact that 550 million people today use Facebook to connect and share their experiences, while 150 million people tweet for the exact same reason. In addition, this social movement is beginning to invade most business processes — including sales, marketing, customer service and product innovation. Given that, I see the opportunity for male leaders to embrace their social selves so their organizations can benefit from the revolution in social media. Being social, connecting with each other through online communities and nurturing individuals’ passions is not going away — just the opposite — it is going to continue to blossom. So joining the social revolution is an opportunity for all leaders — men and women!

Image credit: the huhu, via iStockPhoto