There are two kinds of mindsets among people who have responsibility for areas of business.  You could be an agency account person, in charge of a company or brand, or even a butcher, baker or candle-stick maker. Whatever your vocation, it's highly likely that you are either a manager or a leader.  

(To be clear, I'm not talking about titles.  I'm getting at what professional stance someone may take when running a particular area of authority. You could have the title "Group Leader," but really just manage or you could have the title "Brand Manager," but really be an innovative, inspiring leader.)


  • deal with what's handed to them
  • iterate on what's been done
  • chart a course in ink
  • check boxes
  • have "not my..." in their vocabulary i.e. department, job, budget, responsibility
  • lean to the conservative
  • maximize resources against goals
  • measure at the end


  • redefine their environment
  • allergic to "this is how we've always done it"
  • head in a direction, but not certain to reach destination
  • colour outside the boxes
  • strive to be innovative
  • focus resources on goals; but saves some for the sandbox
  • measure along the way; course-correcting on the fly

There are few true leaders in the world.  It's risky.  It's hard.  It's often times unappreciated.

In the agency business you meet colleagues and clients who exhibit tendencies to one of these mindsets.  Sometimes leaders are frustrated because a manager is what's needed.  Other times, a manager is more worried about revising their spreadsheet than making a 90-degree turn in Q2...even if it's the right thing to do.

While this duality is on my mind a lot, I'd never considered how it played in the context of social media strategists until I had a read through Altimeter's comprehensive report on the "Career Path of the Corporate Social Strategist."  What struck me is the following graph from the report:

Social Media Career inflection point.jpg

That fork in the road is the inflection point for social media within the enterprise.  A social media manager will veer to the "social media help desk" while the social media leader will be drawn to the "social business programs" path.  As author Jeremiah Owyang points out in his Executive Recommendations section, it's crucial that business "aim high when hiring" and avoid bringing "transactional technologists" on board.

There's a lot of great stuff in the report that's worth reading if you are considering a career in social media, consulting with clients right now, or considering bringing social media capabilities into your business.

Report: Career Path of the Corporate Social Strategist: Be Proactive or Become Social Media Help Desk

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Jeremiah Owyang