Erik Qualman’s next bestselling book, Digital Leader Being a leader in the world today is more complicated than ever. A vortex of distractions and demands, plus the potential for public disaster are very real with the advent of social media and the Internet. And forget privacy. Regardless of whether you say anything yourself online, someone is mentioning you, someone is posting a photo of you, someone knows where you are. Your online actions, believe it or not, are being etched in history for the world to see, defining who you are, who you were, and who you will be. And so goes the premise of international best-selling author of Socialnomics, Erik Qualman in his new groundbreaking book, Digital Leader: 5 Simple Keys to Success and Influence.

In this Q&A, SOCIAL PLANET gleans some of Erik’s tremendous insight into living successfully in the digital age, and, we also get a little beyond business as well.

SOCIAL PLANET: The structure of your book centers around the acronym STAMP, what you call the 5 keys to success and influence. Could you tell us more about them?


  • Simple – How to find success by paring back, focusing, and narrowing things down to their element.
  • True – The process of becoming and remaining true to your passion.
  • Act – How to take the first step. Nothing happens without action.
  • Map –  How to create your map. Goals and visions are needed to get where you want to be.
  • People – The act of listening, networking, following and attracting people to you. Success doesn’t happen alone.

“Once you accept the fact that you aren’t going to get everything done, then you can better address what should get done.” – Erik Qualman

SOCIAL PLANET: You also talk about leaving a “digital shadow”. Regardless of whether or not we’re even aware, each one of us is leaving trail online. Even if we never post a word to any social media network, others are and will talk about us. This is a conceptual change that’s a little hard to get used to. Can you speak to this?

EQUALMAN:Essentially what happens in Vegas now stays on Facebook…YouTube…and beyond forever. Whatever we do offline we should live as if our mother is watching. Faster than you can say camera phone items will be captured. We have seen this from Weiner to Paterno that all rocks will be turned over moving into the digital decades ahead.

“Measure your words twice, post once.” – Erik Qualman

SOCIAL PLANET: This book comes at the right time, offering sage advice and really practical guidance on how to deal with the onslaught of digital information and learning how to balance all of these new relationships. You give tips for everything from looking good on camera to exercise to typing with good posture. So glad you included these small details—why did you?

EQUALMAN: My readers enjoy that I give them strategic overviews of where the world is and where it is heading, but they also want practical and detailed advice on what they can do today. This is particularly important in Digital Leader because the book is designed so that the reader can positively change their life today and legacy tomorrow. Only when one leads their best life, can they lead others. These practical tips are designed to simplify an individual’s life so that they can focus on leaving a much bigger imprint on the world. I even wrote this book as much for myself as a guide/reference for the rest of my life– that’s why the research was so thorough.

SOCIAL PLANET: You mention taking one day a week off to unplug digitally. What other kinds of routines to you practice that brings a healthy balance to your daily and weekly routine and helps you to perform at your peak ability and talents?

EQUALMAN: Two items I discuss in the book help me tremendously. #1: I start the day by writing down the 2 most important things I need to complete, and #2: I only do e-mail twice per day for 30 minutes at a time.

“Often our ultimate success is determined by what we decide not to do, as much as by what we decide to do.” – Erik Qualman
SOCIAL PLANET: You mentioned your Dad helped you write this book—how do you think your upbringing has shaped your understanding of leadership, where today, you are considered to be one of the most influential speakers on the topic?

EQUALMAN:My entire life I’ve been fortunate to have a very supportive family and network of friends. Some of us aren’t as lucky. However, I discuss in the book in section five (People) how you can create your own luck. Success doesn’t happen alone. So, if you aren’t as fortunate to be born into a loving and supporting family it’s even more important for you to surround yourself with the right people both physically and digitally. Remember always that success in this digital world is a choice.

SOCIAL PLANET: The values expressed in the book: putting others first, having the right attitude, thinking beyond self, we can’t help me but think you’re a Christian, Erik. Is this true?

EQUALMAN:I am a Christian!

SOCIAL PLANET: Of the many professional hats you wear: speaker, professor, author, consultant, what do you look forward to doing the most?

EQUALMAN:I’m fortunate that all of the hats allow me to do what I love most and that is to engage with others, to hear their personal stories of triumph. The human spirit is an amazing thing and the ability for me to see across the globe that what most people truly desire is happiness for themselves and others is very rewarding. If in that process, what I produce (books, videos, keynotes), helps people improve their lives than I have achieved my goal.

SOCIAL PLANET: What do you think is the best way to handle vacations in the online world? What would your recommendations be for those of us in the social media space who need to be constantly monitoring their business? What’s the best way to handle getting time off?

EQUALMAN:Everyone is different in how they relax. Someone that doesn’t have access to their phone for 4 days may find that more stressful than relaxing. We all need downtime though and I offer varying suggestions on what works for most people. The reader should try these tips and determine what works best for them. You should always be asking yourself at the end of the day how do I shift my time to do more of what I love and less of what I don’t enjoy. Ironically enough, this is the fastest path to success. When you truly love what you do the day-to-day will seem like a vacation. Another key is to make certain you have technology work for you rather than you being a slave to it.

“The greatest gift in life is to give of oneself.” – Erik Qualman

SOCIAL PLANET: You touch briefly on the concept of social good in your book and you cite Howard Shultz’s (the CEO of Starbucks) ethos of providing health insurance for employees because of a unfortunate event in his upbringing, what do you think are the benefits of businesses bringing this kind of element into their leadership—could you expound on this a bit more?

EQUALMAN:I am seeing trends and attitudes in Generation Y, Z and beyond that this new consumer will demand this (social good) of companies. If I have a choice between two relatively similar products and one is more beneficial to society than I will select the later. The success of Tom’s Shoes is a great example where every time a pair of shoes is purchased another pair is sent to a child in need.

SOCIAL PLANET: What do you think of Google+ so far and how important do you think it is for businesses to have a social media profile there?

EQUALMAN:Business should keep an eye on Google+, but it’s too soon for most to jump on it at this point. They’d be better off focusing and improving their other programs (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube). However, some small businesses and individuals can have tremendous success reaching out to some very influential people, as the space isn’t cluttered. Meaning it’s easier for one to contact a Mark Cuban or Larry Page (CEO of Google) when it’s in this early stage. (And this is exactly how SOCIAL PLANET got access through Google+!)

Regardless of what business you’re in, Digital Leader: 5 Simple Keys to Success and Influence is a must-read. The principles for success may have not changed much over the course of history, but their application sure has. We live in a new age, and we have a palatable leader that not only understands the implications of these radical changes to society, but who also exemplifies the substance, character and the humility we call leadership. You do not want to miss the opportunity to learn from the best.

Erik Qualman is an internationally sought-after speaker, sharing the stage with CEO’s, celebrities and prime ministers alike. Erik is also a featured social media marketing expert on BusinessWeek, The New York Times, WSJ, Mashable, USA Today, Financial Times, Forbes, Fortune, CBS Nightly News and The Huffington Post and has been called upon to help grow the digital capabilities of companies like Cadillac, EarthLink, EF Education, Yahoo, Travelzoo and AT&T. Erik serves a MBA professor at Hult International School of Business. When he takes on a commitment, it’s intentional. So we are truly thankful for Erik’s time for making this interview happen.
“It’s not how much you get done that matters, it’s what you’ve done.” – Erik Qualman
Connect with Erik Qualman:

Erik Qualman on Twitter
Eric Qualman on Facebook
Erik Qualman on Google+
Erik Qualman’s Blog 
Eric Qualman’s Book, Digital Leader: 5 Simple Keys to Success and Influence, at Amazon
Eric Qualman’s Book, Socialnomics, at Amazon