In an earlier blog post I wrote about how employees need to behave in order to thrive in social business environments. Then, I was re-reading Mark Schaefer’s great book, “Return On Influence: The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing” and the executive coach in me started to think about the unique adjustments leaders must make in order to thrive in social business environments.

The Challenge: An infinite Communication Loop

The flow of information has been democratized and the top-down information funnel has morphed into an information network. I like the image of an infinite loop to describe the ways that information is flowing in organizations these days. The loop has no top and no bottom; it just flows. That’s how it feels in social business; the information you need may just as easily be coming at you sideways as it is to be coming from “above” or “below”.

As a result, if you are a leader making the adjustment to work in this environment, you may notice that those you lead …

  • May be sharing as much, if not, more information with you as you are sharing with them.
  • May know what is going on about a particular issue before you hear about it.
  • May be “talking” directly to your boss as often as they talk to you (via internal and external social business media).
  • May not look to you first for answers, but will still do so when decisions are to be made.
  • May be getting their information from multiple sources.
  • May put their ideas “out there” before you have had the chance to formulate a P.O.V.

This New Normal requires a new leadership response.

The easiest way to up your leadership ROI: Focus on 3 Big Ideas

Instead of trying to retain the status quo, do like Queen Elsa in “Frozen” and “Let It Go”. Become a Fixer (like Olivia Pope, the main character (played so impressively by Kerry Washington) on ABC TV’s hit TV show, “Scandal”) instead. A Fixer is a person who removes the barriers to forward momentum. And, as we learn every week in “Scandal”, Fixers are waaaay more powerful than anyone else – even Presidents! [If you don’t know the characters in “Scandal”, some parts of this post may seem a little obscure, but the main idea (and the good news) is that there are many more ways to get and exert influence in the social business environment than they were before!] The 3 big things you should focus on first are (1) Vision, (2) Communication and (3) Collaboration.

  1. Communicate a clear and compelling vision. [Olivia Pope calls her team members “Gladiators” to signify that they are in “it” together. She talk about them wearing “white hats” to signify that they are always striving to do the right thing.] Olivia’s vision seems to be something like “We are Gladiators. We Wear White Hats. We Fix the Problems that Thoughtless Powerful People Create”. It’s clear. It’s compelling (to Gladiators, present and past).
  2. Establish mechanisms for continuous 360-degree communication. Find ways to make it easy for your team members to share information with one another, with colleagues outside the team, and with you! Olivia uses a ginormous glass wall to which the team attaches their big ideas using Post-It notes. You might find that the available technology solutions are easier and more scalable than a glass wall. Just make sure you’re doing something to make it easier for team members to communicate.
  3. Establish mechanisms for 360-degree collaboration. Find ways to make it easy for your team members to work together so ideas and innovation will flourish. In “Scandal”, the organization B613 brings together a group of people for a common mission and helps them work in concert to get things done. [We may not agree with all the things they do, but we can certainly agree that they sure know how to collaborate to get them done.] How easy is it for your team members to collaborate?

Then, Be More like Olivia:

One consistent aspect of the “Scandal” story is how Olivia is so steady when it comes to guiding her team. Once the mission has been defined, she is hands-off and focuses on results more than process. Here is a short list of behaviors at which Olivia excels:

  • She is an Understander: Olivia focuses on understanding individual team members’ needs. After all, you can’t possibly manage Huck the same way you manage Quinn!
  • She is a Decider: Olivia make decisions quickly whenever possible.
  • She is an Innovation Supporter: Olivia makes it clear that mistakes are inevitable and are really innovation opportunities. If Huck goes off on one of his “spells”, Olivia drinks a glass of wine, tells him she expects better next time, and carries on. It’s OK to make mistakes and learn from them on “Scandal”.
  • She is a Connector: Olivia Pope knows how to help the team make contact quickly and easily with other people who can help them complete their missions. All Gladiators need an Olivia.
  • She is a Shaper: Olivia asks provocative questions to challenge her team so their ideas can be strengthened. She makes rapid-fire connections between seemingly unrelated facts and when she is done, the members of her team know what to do next. Only she (the leader) can do that because she often knows things the rest of the team does not know. Her filter helps prevent team members from going off on useless tangents.
  • She is a Defender: In this transparent environment, it is inevitable that not everyone will agree with everything your team members say via social business media. Decide what your stance will be when that happens. Will you support and defend their willingness to share their views or will you try to shut that down? According to Olivia, “We’re never done. If we lose this round, we prep him for appeal. If we lose that, we prep him for a second appeal because whatever happens, there’s always another move. Whatever happens, we do not give up. It is my name on that door and I do not give up.”
  • She is a Sharer: Olivia shares what she learns as soon as she can. She does not wait for someone on her team to say “if you knew that, why didn’t you tell me!” She knows that delays could be costly.
  • She is an Amplifier: Olivia heralds her team’s accomplishments. She gives away credit. She pats her Gladiators on the back. She urges them on, saying – “You’re Gladiators! That is what you do!

Olivia Pope is a Fixer. She is a Barrier-Remover: “Consider it handled!” That is Olivia’s leadership promise.
There you have it! Lessons in social business leadership from a woman in a white hat – who, in TVLand, is (possibly) more influential than the President.


  • Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee. Frozen. Downloaded from on 4/4/2015.
  • Mark Schaefer (2012). Return On Influence: The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing. NY: McGraw-Hill.
  • Shonda Rimes. Scandal. Downloaded from on 4/4/2015.
  • Goldenloop image: diez artwork