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Leadership Lessons via Ashton Kutcher on Twitter?

Editors Note. Last week Twitter was abuzz about a battle between Ashton Kutcher and CNN to see who would be the 1st Twitter with 1,000,000 followers. On April 17th I tweeted “Please remind me again, why I should follow Ashton Kutcher?” to which I received a response from @kahood which said “1 mil followers – I’d say he’s a leader of something! That would be an interesting @weeklyleader blog if you ask me!” Well, I did asked her and here’s Katie’s take.

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CNN Kutcher by John Shearer for WireImageIf you haven‘t heard, Hollywood icon Ashton Kutcher (aka @aplusk) beat out CNN (aka @CNN) in breaking the 1 million “followers” mark on Twitter, a milestone unclaimed until now. The day after his victory – I tweeted “Okay – I admit it – I am following @aplusk too! What? Dude’s got good juju!” I was silently rooting for Kutcher.

Why was I rooting for Kutcher (besides my tendency to get sucked into media hype)? Perhaps it was his messages "Why R they pushing so hard if this doesn’t mean anything? It’s a changing of the guard. the old way the new way," or “I just think its amazing that 1 voice can now be as powerful at an entire media network. thank you twitter!” Sure, there are rumors it was a scam, but somewhere in all the hype, I became inspired. Inspired enough to hit “follow.”

Being the “leadership geek” I am, I began to think about what I could learn from the newly crowned “King of Twitter.” Just for fun – let’s examine what leadership characteristics helped make Ashton Kutcher successful (besides being rich, famous and Mr. Demi Moore aka @mrskutcher).

Let’s start with the “good ju-ju," one of my favorite leadership traits. I define it as “positive and contagious energy and enthusiasm.” In comparison, one could have "bad ju-ju", which I define as "negative and draining energy". For me, it’s a communication tool. Beyond logic and the words “this is important” and “we must get this done," it conveys belief and conviction. It’s not just what you say. It’s how you say it, how you walk it and how you live it. Who you are as a person, your character – whether or not you have good “ju-ju” or bad – can often be a strong factor in how your followers make decisions. Decisions to follow you – or not. As far as I’m concerned, Ashton Kutcher’s positive and contagious energy and enthusiasm, his “good ju-ju," played a huge part in attracting me to support his cause.

Ashton Kutcher also engaged his followers on Twitter and other internet social media sites. He rallied them. He spoke to them and not at them. A trusted friend and mentor mentioned the importance of cultivating relationships as an important leadership tool. That is what Kutcher did during the three days of the twitter challenge. He cultivated relationships one tweet at a time. My point is that every encounter is an opportunity to engage your followers. I’m not saying to walk around and shake everyone’s hand and memorize the names and birthdates of their children. I’m just saying to appreciate the value of relationships.

Kutcher’s description, “Changing of the guard, the old way the new way” also caught my attention. In this case, it’s an individual personality armed with new media against the power and influence of an iconic media company. Leaders are not afraid to challenge old ways. I do not mean that there is anything wrong with doing what’s worked in the past. In fact, I would highly recommend doing so. However it must not be because of fear of change or trying something new. If we do not innovate and take risks, we will not grow, especially when the world around us is already changing. We must embrace change. Sometimes, in order to embrace these changes, we are challenged with the power of the “old ways.” Like CNN – they are part of the establishment, have proven their success and are not likely to respond to anyone with the audacity to challenge them. Although far from being a pitiful underdog, Ashton Kutcher inspired me through his audacity and strong desire to communicate change.

This was a fun post for me. One might say it’s far fetched to call Ashton Kutcher a "leader", but in my humble opinion, getting 1 million people to "follow" you in such a short amount of time, while competing against a "Goliath-like" media company – is exactly what "leadership" is about.

Thank you Mr. Demi Moore for providing me with these fun lessons. I’m sorry I must turn down your offer to spearhead your campaign for President of the United States. However, I hope that you continue to use your influence and leadership to promote worthy causes and demonstrate to the world the benefits of new ideas and change.

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Katie Hood Katie Hood is a Business Analyst and is a contractor working with the U.S. Coast Guard. She is passionate about promoting leadership and collaboration throughout and beyond the organization. Her favorite leadership role, however is shaping the character of her 10 year old son. She is originally from Kaneohe, Hawaii and currently lives in Camden, North Carolina.

About the author

Peter A. Mello, Founder/Editor Founder of Weekly Leader and Sea-Fever Consulting, LLC, a leadership development and strategic communications consultancy. Previously, CEO of an international nonprofit organization and COO of a national insurance/risk management services firm. Peter has been leading people and managing organizations for over 30 years, writes a leadership column for MarineNews magazine and blogs about maritime culture at Sea-Fever. Follow him on Twitter.

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