September 20, 2013
Friday Five: Michael Hyatt
How does your social media platform relate to leadership?
For today's entry in the Friday Five interview series, we catch up with Michael Hyatt.
Hyatt is the former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. He maintains one of the most popular blogs in the blogosphere, named by Forbes Magazine as one of the Top 50 Social Media Influencers of 2013. He is a popular conference speaker.
His latest book, Platform, was a New York Times Bestseller.
Today we chat with Hyatt about the state of Christian publishing, platform building, and spiritual leadership.
You stepped down as CEO of Thomas Nelson two years ago and recently your former company merged with Zondervan. In your view, what is the future for the Christian publishing industry?
It depends on your role in the ecosystem. Christian retailers will be increasingly challenged. It’s difficult to compete with the selection, convenience, and price of online retailers. I expect continued contraction in this part of the industry.
Christian publishers also face challenges. They are going to have to get very clear on the value they bring to authors, especially as compared to the plethora of self-publishing options available today.
Beyond that, the biggest challenge will be to find the capital to invest in growth. Overall, their business is stagnant. Their owners (mostly secular) are loathe to make additional investments in a industry segment where there is so little upside potential.
Unless they can attract capital, they will have to get by with smaller royalty advances, fewer marketing dollars, and less expensive staff. I expect increased consolidation in this part of the industry.
Christian authors are in the best position of all. While traditional publishing is still a viable option, self-publishing makes it faster, easier, and cheaper to get into print. They no longer need permission from the gate-keepers.
In addition, web technologies and social media now make it possible for authors to engage with their readers directly without the need for an intermediary. This changes everything.
In your latest book, Platform you say that it’s never been easier to build a tribe and garner influence. Has modern technology flattened leadership?
Yes, I think it has. When I was at Thomas Nelson, social media made it easier for people at any level of the company to connect directly with me as the CEO. And they did.
Some managers were threatened by this. But in my view, it made it much easier to leverage my influence and positively impact the culture. It also made it less likely that the information I received was filtered.
This creates an environment where the organization is much more efficient and responsive to changes in the external environment. It essentially leverages influence.
Critics of the platform approach might say that it leads to a narcissism and self-promotion as opposed to service and substance. How would you respond to that?
I think it’s actually just the opposite. Social networks reward those who are generous. With the exception of some celebrities whose antics provide entertainment value for their followers, those who focus too much on themselves don’t build large followings.
Those who succeed at the social media game add value, offer assistance, and point to content their followers will find useful. Those who do the best job of serving, grow the largest tribes.
This is not to say that social media technologies are without problems, but I don’t think narcissism is one of them. I am far more concerned about what they are doing to our brains and the disintegration of our private and public selves.
You speak often on organizational leadership. How do some of these principles scale to a smaller context, such as a church of 100 or a small business?
This is the beauty of social media. It scales both up and down. Let’s consider an organization that is even smaller than a small church or a small business—the family.
Facebook, to pick but one example, allows me to stay connected to my family and what is going on in their lives that would have been impossible ten years ago. I know when one of my daughters is having a tough day, and I can pray for her. Conversely, I can let them know when I need something without having to make five phone calls.
Regardless of the size of our organization, we have to resist the temptation to make social media the be-all, end-all. It can enhance face-to-face encounters, but it is not a substitute for them. It’s merely another, more efficient way to communicate and stay connected.
If you could advise pastors and church leaders, what would you tell them is the most important aspect of their leadership?
Without question, self-leadership. If you want to have extraordinary influence, you must walk your talk. I call this the incarnational principle of leadership.
People today are desperate for role models. Many of them have grown up with absentee parents. They literally have never been taught basic life lessons.
This is why the foundation of biblical leadership is not tips, techniques, skills, or even education. It is a life that flows from abiding in Christ and allowing His words to abide in us.