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Bill George

Harvard Business School Professor, former Medtronic CEO

Connected Leadership (Guest Post)

I own an iPhone and a Blackberry, and I use both constantly.  Read articles.  Set meetings.  Watch videos.  Send and receive emails.  Check my Twitter feed.  Find the best lunch spot in a new city.  Chat with my friends and colleagues.

As one who’s start-up small business thrives on social media – particularly, constant communication with my team, my clients, and my potential clients – I cannot imagine maintaining my current level of productivity or efficiency without my smart phones.  As such, I would imagine other business leaders share a similar perspective, particularly as mobile devices become increasingly intuitive and practical. 

For those leaders still on the fence, however, here are 8 reasons why I think mobility is critical for leadership:

  1. Every bad product review left unattended or complaint unresolved is an open wound for your company.  Imagine the impact on a customer if you, the CEO, responds to his or her complaint, and actually fixes it.  Imagine the ripples in the pond when word spreads of your customer-centricity.  Little bad, and great good, can happen from genuine attempts at real-time problem-solving – and mobile web technology enables it more quickly.
  2. A definitive trend of the 21st century media has been an increase in velocity.  You cannot ignore the pace of change – the speed of news cycles, the acceleration of your own company’s operations, and the ferocity of your competitors.  Allowing yourself to be disconnected is to make way for others to sprint ahead.
  3. Crises – big (Toyota) and small (Google Buzz’s privacy hiccup) – do not wait for normal 9 to 5 business hours.  As Bill George has so often noted, the first and most difficult step in resolving a crisis is facing the reality of your situation, beginning with yourself.  Advanced mobile technology allows you to gather data, conference with your executive team, observe customer complaints, and mobilize around a response with the constraints of boardroom sitdowns.  Akio Toyoda failed for a number of reasons, but his sluggish response was one of the most glaring.
  4. Your employees live in the mobile web.  Ask Zappos’ Tony Hsieh or Google’s Eric Schmidt – each can attest to the inherent cultural benefits of open, active, mobile communication across social networks with employees.
  5. Your competitors live in the mobile web.  And they are taking your customers.
  6. Your family and friends live online.  Mobile technology offers much needed opportunities to connect with your spouse, children, friends and extended family to get a fresh perspective whenever you want or need to.  No leader is successful without an active support network.  Today’s mobile technology ensures you always have one.
  7. Your Web 2.0 culture-conscious customers expect you to be accessible by mobile, just as they expect your company employees to be.  Mobile facilitates an even simpler and accommodating evolution in customer-interaction, and will allow you to monitor that evolution in real time.
  8. Mobile usage increased by 110% in the U.S. in 2009, and 148% percent worldwide as measured by growth in pageviews (see: January Quantcast report).  Do you really want to have zero frame of reference as to the mobile lifestyle?  That’s a dangerous concession.  Get started now – if you’re new, there is a steep learning curve.

As my team, my family, and my friends often remind me, there’s always the “Power” button to set the necessary boundaries.  Set them and stick to them, but actively engage in the meantime.

In my experience, you’ll be a better informed, more genuine, and more effective leader for it.