In a panel at the Milken Institute Global Conference about challenges facing the modern CEO, Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO David Solomon was asked why he’d adopted Instagram as his social-media platform of choice. (His predecessor Lloyd Blankfein was an enthusiastic Twitter user.)
“I needed a more modern way to communicate with a workforce that is 75% millennial [and Generation Z], 60% 30 years old or less,” Solomon said. “You’ve got to be a little bit more available, a little bit more vulnerable.”
So what counts as available and vulnerable for the leader of one of the world’s largest investment banks? Solomon has posted 35 times on his account, @davidsolomon, where the bio reads, “Dad. DJ. Day job @goldmansachs.” (His much-publicized side hustle as a deejay is documented on his second Instagram account, @djdsolmusic, which has 20,500 followers compared to @davidsolomon’s 13,900.)
“Great first day spending time with my partners and our clients @fortunemag’s #FortuneMPW,” Solomon wrote on Oct. 1, his first day as CEO, under a group photograph from Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women conference in southern California.
“I always enjoy spending time with our people and had the chance to hear from groups across the firm this week. Thanks for your energy and ideas,” he wrote Dec. 14, under a series of nondescript photos of him talking to employees in Goldman’s New York offices. “Great hosting Sir @richardbranson and hearing about his history of building brands at our global partners meeting,” he wrote under a Feb. 8 picture of himself posing with the billionaire.
Even in his post from Washington DC on April 10—the day Solomon and leaders of six other major US banks were questioned by the House Financial Services Committee on the health of the US economy—the most insight Solomon offered into his mental state was an early-morning shot of the White House above the words “Beautiful morning for a run in DC before a busy day.”
Merriam-Webster defines “vulnerable” as “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded; open to attack or damage.” It is hard to see what risk Solomon incurs by publicly declaring that he enjoys spending time with key Goldman Sachs constituencies, or sometimes talks to fellow wealthy people about #brands.
The idea that photos of a CEO doing typical CEO things constitute “vulnerability” shows how much the phrase has been stripped of meaning in the corporate context. There are no photographs or statements on Solomon’s Instagram that couldn’t double as fodder for the “seen around town” spreads of well-known names that still populate some print newspapers and magazines. The medium has changed, but there’s nothing inherently more revealing about the content.
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