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Socially Centered Leadership and Technology. What do you think?

by Carol Rozwell  |  June 25, 2013  |  3 Comments

During 2012, I undertook a maverick research project with my Gartner colleague Debra Logan. We explored the evolution of leadership in a social world that we eventually called socially centered leadership.

The hallmarks of the socially centered leader are:

  • Clear, honest, and credible communication that articulates intent
  • Transparency
  • Emotional engagement and personal generosity
  • Humility
  • Fact-based decision style

Our recommendations to people who aspire to socially centered leadership are to:

  • Elevate your team’s mission; articulate it simply, clearly, and often
  • Encourage as much transparency as possible without breaking the law
  • Prioritize and systematize genuine personal contact with your workers
  • Stimulate experimentation, make and admit mistakes
  • Develop a competency in collaborative decision making

The need for a more humanistic, socially centered leadership style are clear. The numbers tell us that high levels of employee engagement correlate with high organizational performance. We cited a number of examples of such studies in our report. Following the report’s publication, Gallup conducted its eighth meta-analysis on the Q12 using 263 research studies across 192 organizations in 49 industries and 34 countries. Within each study, Gallup researchers statistically calculated the work-unit-level relationship between employee engagement and performance outcomes that the organization supplied.


Work units in the top quartile in employee engagement outperformed bottom-quartile units by 10% on customer ratings, 22% in profitability, and 21% in productivity. Work units in the top quartile also saw significantly lower turnover (25% in high-turnover organizations, 65% in low-turnover organizations), shrinkage (28%), and absenteeism (37%) and fewer safety incidents (48%), patient safety incidents (41%), and quality defects (41%).

As part of our research we interviewed many interesting people. (My blog on the Vineet Nayar interview. Gartner clients can read the completed report Maverick* Research: Socially Centered Leadership)

This year, we are continuing our research by exploring how technology supports or subverts a socially centered leader. (This effort is complemented by work Elise Olding and Jackie Fenn are doing to study how a better understanding of the brain will change how we work.) We’ve interviewed a variety of wise people. We will publish research of our findings in September and conduct workshops at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo events in October and November.

So far, they’ve argued the side of the argument that technology can enhance the socially centered leader’s engagement with employees. I’m wondering if there are downsides to the use of technology to increase the engagement between a socially centered leader and their employees. What do you think? We know that technology cannot make up for a lack of the basic skills of a socially centered leader. But when it’s used with proper intent, can it be misapplied or even backfire?

Let me know what you think. Comment on the blog or send me a tweet @CRozwell.

Category: change-management  collaboration  social-networks  

Tags: change-management  organizational-change  organizational-liquidity  social-networking  social-networks  socially-centered-leadership  

Carol Rozwell
VP Distinguished Analyst
11 years at Gartner
21 years IT industry

Carol Rozwell is a vice president and distinguished analyst on Gartner's Content, Collaboration and Social team. Ms. Rozwell explores strategies that support the digital workplace. She is researching social networks, social analytics and socially centered leadership.Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Socially Centered Leadership and Technology. What do you think?

  1. […] and Deb Logan are doing complementary research on socially centered leadership. See Carol’s blog for more. We will be publishing research of our findings in September and conduct workshops at the […]

  2. Bruce Lewin says:

    Hi Carol,

    I’d argue that social media technology can (but won’t always) increase existing levels of narcissism and could well act as a catalyst in enhancing the psychopathology/dysfunctionality within organisations and amongst leaders.

    The research into the use of facebook and narcissism is one starting point, as is the examination of psychopathology amongst the C suite. Robert Hare is the go to guy on psychopathology.

    In short, the social media tools just enhance and speed up what’s already been happening for decades within firms. The other perspective is to go beyond technology and to look at what factors contribute to narcissism/psychopathology/dysfunctionality in the first place.

  3. Carol Rozwell says:

    Interesting perspective, Bruce. The maverick research we are working on explores the role of technology in creating greater employee engagement. In our previous work, we outlined the concept of the socially centered leader – a new style of leadership needed for a digital business. Since Gartner is well-known for its technology research, this is an exploration that is consistent with our corporate mission.

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