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Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead Hardcover – May 24, 2010
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An essential guide for leaders who want to use social media to be "open" while maintaining control
"Be Open, Be Transparent, Be Authentic" are the current leadership mantras-but companies often push back. Business is premised on the concept of control and yet the new world order demands openness-leaders do not know how to be open and be in control. This must-have resource will help the modern leader understand how to lead in the new open world-where blogging, twittering, facebooking, and digging are becoming the norm. the author lays out the steps that leaders must take to transform their organizations and themselves into being "open" -and exactly what that will mean.
- Shows how to use social media to become an open organization
- Offers basic advice for leaders who are adapting to the new era of openness in the marketplace
- The author Charlene Li is one of the foremost experts on social media and technologies
In easy-to-understand language, this book will help leaders orient themselves to social networking and other technological advances.
How Open Leadership Differs from Traditional Leadership
Content from author Charlene Li
shows leaders how to tap into the power of the social technology revolution. (Publicnet.co.uk, April 2011).
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This important and substantive work addresses a fundamental shift in how people -- individuals -- relate to organizations and vice versa. It's about a subtle, inevitable transfer of power that leaders can either adapt to (allowing their organization to engage an audience and thrive), or go down resisting.
The book's subtitle is "How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead." This vanilla tagline, unfortunately, does little to promote the importance and urgency of Li's message (see preceding paragraph). Public confidence in institutions is at an all-time low, and it owes in large part to the whole concept of "openness," or lack thereof.
Customers, voters, volunteers, people of faith -- pick your sub-group -- are embracing organizations that share and listen. They are tuning out those that cling to the old model of withhold and dictate. I'd add "employees" to that mix of stakeholders, too, with the caveat that the *best* employees will increasingly choose to work for open organizations versus command-and-control ones ... because even in a lousy economy, they can.
Meticulously researched, solidly written, and brimming with mostly useful sidebars and exercises, Open Leadership is a worthwhile read for new and experienced leaders at all levels. At the time of this review, there was also a web site that allowed you to fill out the exercises/assessments online. For me, this was much more convenient than stopping every chapter to complete the assessments on paper.
I've both enjoyed the pleasure of working for (with, really) "open" leaders and endured the anguish of situations where "command-and-control" systems kept all the human cogs rigidly in place. In my experience, managers who could most use the lessons offered by Li tend to be the least likely to see the need: it takes a special (and at present exceedingly rare) kind of leader to engage in introspection, self-examination, and rethinking of the status quo. These behaviors require a certain amount of humility and comfort with relinquishing control, which may run counter to the programming of traditional career hard chargers.
In defense of command-and-control, one reasonable argument for it, and against too "open" of an organization, is risk management. An inadvertant HIPAA violation by an employee using social media could result not only in huge fines but an incalculable erosion of public trust and goodwill. A culturally insensitive tweet from one impulsive worker can tar an otherwise thoughtful organization of thousands for weeks or more. More often than not, however, I think this "concern" about risk is a smokescreen to mask fear and lack of understanding of how the new, social media-interfaced business ecosystem works. I have no data to back this up, that's just what I intuit from observation and knowing how and why people react the way they do to change.
Contrary to what's been posited in other reviews, Li brilliantly suggests addressing risk-related concerns the way you would any known business risk. Not by sticking your head in the sand, but by modeling, simulating, and dreaming up worst-case scenarios -- in this context, the scenarios being all manner of social media firestorms. Of course, to approve such time-and-money-intensive action, executives would have to be convinced of the potential benefits of participating in social media in the first place. For anyone worried about loose-cannon subordinates running amok on social media, Li notes that training and policies go a long way toward reducing the risk of screw-ups.
In addition to serving managers and executives well, Open Leadership is a helpful resource to have on hand if you've been charged with getting your organization aboard the social media train. Li has used her vast network to include relevant interviews and anecdotes from a range of companies in multiple industries. There is likely a case study that addresses any resistance you're facing in implementing a more social media-friendly, open culture.
I enjoyed this book. Not only is the subject matter interesting, but the way in which Li presents the material is fresh, interesting and engaging.
The main premise of the book is that in order for organizations to use social tools and technology, they need to be able to operate in a more open manner.
I do have to say that when I first saw the title "Open Leadership", I was perplexed. I thought that Li had somehow decided to move away from her area of experience and expertise in the social space and move into the realm of `leadership' books. The subtitle helped assuage that fear though and after opening the book and starting to read, I realized that the title made perfect sense.
In this book, Li declares open leadership to be a vital factor in whether an organization succeeds using social media. She argues that by becoming more open, organizations will be able to build real / honest relationships with their employees, clients and vendors.
This is a good thing. Building long-lasting and valuable relationships with people (whether they are clients or employees) is the entire reason for moving into the social space. Having a culture of openness within an organization helps tremendously with building those relationships.
Li argues that the old `command and control' structure that most organizations have used (and still use) will not work in this more open environment. While this argument is made fairly successfully, there are many places in the book where Li tries to assuage those who still prefer the top-down command approach with her `controlled' open-ness approach. When I first ran across the idea of a controlled `open' environment as Li discusses, I was a little disturbed, but after thinking about it and reading more, I realized that Li wasn't really advocating for continuing the command and control approach; she's arguing for processes that help shape the open environment. As long-time readers of this blog know, I'm all for processes as long as they don't hinder the ability of the business to be `human'.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in social media, social technologies, customer service and marketing. There are a lot of really great stories & case studies that highlight how organizations are using social media to get closer to their customers and the problems those customers are having.
If you liked Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, a great book in its own right, you'll like this book too.