Schwartz Kicks off Supernova

Here at the Supernova conference in San Francisco, Jonathan Schwartz is making a case for executive blogging.

Schwartz is the president and COO of Sun Microsystems, and he’s also probably the highest-profile exec in the Fortune 500 to maintain a blog.

“If you want to be a leader, I can’t see surviving without a blog,” he told conference host Kevin Werbach. “It’s as important as having an e-mail account and a mobile phone.” It doesn’t count, he added, if you delegate the task of maintaining your blog to someone on your staff.

Schwartz says that too often, communicating with employees and business partners is like a game of telephone. You speak to a group of people close to you, and they speak to their teams, and so on and so on. With a blog, “you hop through 12 layers of management to get directly to someone in New Zealand.” It also opens up a channel for receiving feedback and ideas from that employee in New Zealand.

Schwartz doesn’t maintain separate internal and external blogs. Everything’s public. He argued that SEC disclosure requirements (specifically, Reg FD) ought to be satisfied by disclosing information on a blog, since blogs are open and freely accessible to investors big and small, simultaneously.

Schwartz has also made the case with his colleagues for celebrating employee achievement on his blog, rather than a “Wall of Fame” somewhere inside the company.

Wouldn’t that lead to poaching of his best employees by his competitors?

Maybe. But through his blog, Schwartz said, “My competitors’ employees can see what I’m saying, and determine whether I’m more compelling than their leaders.”

UPDATE: My friend David Weinberger, who is doing short video interviews at the conference, chatted with Schwartz after his talk, and challenged him on the idea that all leaders should blog. The video is here.SK