Why leaders must step up with gravitas on LinkedIn

Today more than ever, leaders are under the spotlight and being examined for personal integrity, organisational diligence, DEI (diversity, equity & inclusion) and ESG (environmental, social & governance) policies and values.  This is why leaders must step up with gravitas on LinkedIn as this article discusses.

The heat is turned onto high with a constant news cycle of organisation issues, leaders and boards’ miscreant conduct and industry investigations and senate enquiries.    Any industry or profession in the spotlight will garner both the negative and positive associations to the sector broadly. Tarred with the same brush if you will.  

The currency of trust

Trust is the currency of business and sustainability and as reported in the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer Report, 63 % of people will buy or advocate for brands based on their beliefs and values. 

Edelman’s report also found that 69 % of job candidates seek organisations who have a strong societal impact.  The top three global issues CEO’s are expected to act upon are employee treatment, climate and discrimination.  

It’s imperative for leaders to address scrutiny and communicate on social media, and specifically LinkedIn.  

The leading professional platform, LinkedIn has over 63 million registered companies, 950 million global and 14 million Australian members.  All Google roads lead to the platform which cannot be underestimated.

Yet the majority of ASX2 leaders and the C-Suite from public and private sectors have a lacklustre, minimal &/or ineffective LinkedIn profile and presence.

Leaders need more than just a place card on LinkedIn.   They need an executive presence and a profile of gravitas. 

Holding positions of leadership and high office comes with an inherent obligation to represent both the individual and organisation at its best.

The importance of ethics

The  Ethics Index 2023 (a joint venture of the Governance Institute of Australia &and Ipsos) released their latest findings in September 2023.   The index is the most comprehensive study of its kind with the the nationwide survey revealing  the most and least ethical occupations, organisations and sectors.  

If you are a leader in an occupation or sector that suffers from a poor ethical image, the opportunity to stand out with executive presence and gravitas is essential. 

The following are 2 charts rank ethical behaviours in the Index on pages 24 and 25


Why an executive presence is essential

Global advisory firm, Brunswick Group found in their   2022 Connected Leadership-The Social CEO Report   that people trusted leaders who use social media more than those who don’t by a ratio of 6 to 1 (86 %). 

Further, 82 % of people expect leaders to use social media to communicate their mission, vision and values with 82 % of job candidates researching leaders online whilst considering joining a new company.

Then we see investor relevance from the research findings from Brunswick Group’s 2023 Digital Investor Survey.  It was  found more than 4 out of 5 institutional investors (81 %) make investment decisions based on information they find on digital channels and that 90 % report it’s important for  the equities they cover to maintain a presence online. 

Significantly the investor research found that over 50 % of investors also follow the equities C-Suite and other relevant executives online.

LinkedIn is tacit across marketing, recruitment, employer branding, employee advocacy, sales, careers, board development, social proof, networking, learning, media & PR

What is gravitas?

In broad terms (on or off line) an executive presence coalesces a person’s appearance, communication and gravitas.   

Gravitas encompasses a persons demeanour, confidence, charisma, transparency, clarity of vision, authority, integrity and trustworthiness.

It doesn’t necessarily mean a person is solemn and serious without personality and warmth.   But there is a sense of credibility and coveted competency that overarches and informs. 

At its nexus, servant leadership and steward leadership is demonstrated. 

Finely tuned communication of the above should appeal to both the cognitive and emotional.  Can people trust your capabilities, your promise to deliver the brand promise consistently is part of the cognitive interweave.    Judgement of character and how leaders make others feel is part of the emotional interweave.

These elements need to be genuinely incorporated in a LinkedIn profile to edify and inspire.

How it transfers onto LinkedIn

The personal profile is the nucleus of a leader’s presence. Note a Company page has a very different purpose.

Whilst engagement and content forms part of executive presence, I will just focus here on bedding down the key elements of a personal profile.  They are:

1/ Branded Banner

This is prime company brand augmentation territory.  Like a billboard, it can be changed to meet current campaigns and issues.   

It’s perplexing why the vast majority of leaders have a blank naked space here without their company logos, taglines, images or relevant graphics to bring the profile to life.    

2/ Current Photograph

Professional, warm and inspiring.   Rhetoric must meet reality.

3/ Headline

Clear and descriptive. Can be more than just the default C title and company.

4/ About Section

Detailed and engaging narrative including career overview, education, volunteering, boards, awards, DEI & ESG values, company and personal visions.   Some may share a little under their personal hood.

The general consensus and my own previous poll research is that this section is best received when written in the 1st person.    However, the 3rd person is frequently and appropriate at high C-Suite levels.

My recommendation is if 1st person is not acceptable or appropriate, to write it in the neutral person.  But having written many senior executive profiles, there is an erudite way to write in the 1st person with gravitas and not compromising presence…

5/ Featured Section

Another prime real estate opportunity to visually showcase  media, articles and company news.  

Examples to inspire

I had to dig deep to find solid examples of leaders who embraced all key elements.  

It was disappointing to find that not one C-Suite leader from several high profile ASX organisations had a branded banner of their organisation logo.  Many didn’t even have an about section, or it was just a few miniscule valueless sentences.  

Here are a few senior leaders from totally different  who do have an inspiring presence: 

  1.   Catherine Baxter, COO, Team Global Express
  2.   Brett Redman, CEO, Transgrid
  3.   Lisa Chiba, MD, Momentum Energy
  4.   Andrew Abdo, CEO, National Rugby League
  5.   Alexandra Coates. MD, Datacom
  6.   Steve Robson, President, Australian Medical Association
  7.   Genevieve Collins, Chief Executive Partner, Landers & Rogers
  8.   Virginia Briggs, CEO, Minter Ellison.

Risk & Opportunity

Leaders in both private and public sectors of all sizes must take their LinkedIn footprint seriously.  Whilst this article is focussing on the top end of town, it is transferrable learnings applicable to small businesses leaders also 

Those who embrace the platform reap significant value.   And given the research, the negative ramifications of not doing so is a risk not worth taking as trust and reputations are at stake.

NOTE:  Media Articles

Versions of this article were published in   Accounting Times  HR Leader   Lawyers Weekly   


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