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Your Next CEO Should Be a Social CEO

Science says social CEOs are good for business

There are the obvious reasons CEOs should adopt social media. With the crazy pace of change in markets and technology, social media facilitates the flow of real-time information and communication. It allows more CEOs to reach more people, in more places, in less time, and for less money. And, it can be used as a platform for rapport- and brand-building. Being social is clearly good for CEOs but, as our new research shows, social CEOs are also great for organizations.

Better at six behaviors

The latest results from DDI's High-Resolution Leadership study—a big data compilation comprising 15,000-plus assessment participants (243 CEO candidates)—indicate that social savviness is more than a resume nice-to-have. It is, instead, a powerful selection criterion. We found that social CEO candidates excel in six behaviors and are:

  • 89% stronger than non-social CEO candidates at Empowering Others
  • 46% stronger at Influence
  • 52% stronger at Compelling Communication
  • 36% stronger at Cultivating Networks
  • 19% stronger at Passion for Results
  • 16% stronger at Decision Making


Personality pluses

Social CEO candidates also share personality traits that make them better wired for business judgment than their non-social counterparts. They are more apt to take action, and less predisposed to judgment- impairing attributes (i.e., argumentative and avoidant). And, while CEOs tend to crave the spotlight, social CEOs are more attention-seeking than their peers. With respect to judgment, this is the one negative in the mix of personality positives.


The era of the Social CEO

Curious about how social current CEOs are, we searched the top two professional social platforms—LinkedIn and Twitter—for C-suite executives listed among Harvard Business Review's "Best-Performing CEOs in the World." To qualify for our "social" designation, CEOs had to be both visible (photo-identified) and connected to other users. We found that only 20 percent of top-performers from Fortune 500 companies are engaged in social media. Of these, 18 percent were on LinkedIn, seven were on Twitter, and only four were utilizing both platforms.

The good news is that next-in-line CEOs are already twice as social. Of the 243 CEO candidates we assessed, 51 percent are active on LinkedIn or Twitter. More than half (of the 243) are on the former, while only four percent utilize the latter.


These leaders represent the next generation of CEOs. They will arrive at the top with the technological know-how and motivation to employ social media for more regular and efficient communication with internal and external stakeholders.

And, as our research indicates, their social savviness is linked to other important leadership skills, including judgment. While we don’t support using “social” as a singular selection criterion, we wholeheartedly urge that it be considered alongside more robust assessment data.

Want to know more about CEO candidates—how they are wired, excel, and struggle? Check out our CEO Profile from High-Resolution Leadership.

Stephanie Neal, M.A.

Terri Sota, M.B.A.
Amanda Munsch, M.B.A.

Talk to an Expert: Social CEO
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