February 2015

Twitter CEO Dick Costello

Twitter CEO’s “We Suck” Memo Exemplifies Reputation Leadership

The leaked memo from Twitter CEO Dick Costello is a great example of how successful CEOs embrace Reputation Leadership.

In his frank internal communication Dick Costello admits that the company is not effective at cracking down on Twitter trolls and abusive messages.

He goes on to say that while the company would be well within its rights to maintain the status quo, he and the management team “choose to be better.”

This exemplifies how effective leaders are sensitive to managing and protecting reputation; dealing with this intangible asset as they would with tangible risks directly affecting their bottom line.

Reputation leadership requires a number of skills:

  1. Acute listening to issues that are of serious concern to your stakeholders – in this case Dick Costello was reacting to an article written for the Guardian by Lindy West.
  2. Be responsive and make effective change – there are always excuses why change is too difficult, too expensive or not needed, but good leaders know how to make things happen when necessary.
  3. Align personal and professional values – leaders with the strongest reputations are those that can apply the same values to business as they would in their personal lives.  Dick Costello’s memo shows a genuine passion and is all the more powerful for that.
  4. Act with honesty and transparency – admitting failings and showing how you are planning to put things right is key to being believed and trusted in the long term; both key elements of a leader’s reputation.
  5. Understand the real issues facing your business – while it’s easier in the short term to duck the difficult challenges, leaders are judged on how well they tackle the real problems head on.  As Dick Costello says, “We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day.”
  6. Clearly set the tone for others to follow – using unequivocal language makes it clear that everyone in the organisation should make this their priority too.  This is key to eliminating ‘conduct risk’ in organisations; discouraging employees from acting in a way (or failing to prevent activity) that they know won’t be tolerated.