Charlene Li and Forrester’s Josh Bernoff earlier gave the pioneering book, “Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies”, which provided business a leg up to understand social technologies and consumer behaviors. (For the record : Charlene was amongst the well known Forrester Star who quit to start her own venture Altimeter Group with other partners) Among other things the book laid out the now widely used, the four-step process for developing a social media strategy. A lot has changed since then – the most noticeable one includes, blogging meeting its match as a popular social technology with the exploding popularity of social tools like Facebook ,Twitter, Ning etc. I was delighted to when I got the chance to review Charlene Li’s to be released book – “Open Leadership – How Social Technology Can Transform The Way You Lead” (Release planned May 24, 2010) .
To begin, let’s look at the business world and leadership challenges therein as it exists today: As is now widely recognized, the contours of leadership inside business are changing. Business in this era are discovering that the command -and-control leadership methods of the last century are a misnomer in this age where changes happen too fast, ten year old organizations scale up to support multiples of tens of billion dollars in market cap, business can go global at such a terrific pace that virtually every business that operate in the free market edifice becomes global in nature. Advances in social media impose a huge influence in the way stakeholders come together in running the business. In these circumstances, to attract and retain employees and all other stakeholders to get them to contribute their best to make business grow is a challenge being grappled by all organizations. Working styles and enriching work environments becomes a clarion need and the traditional models of centralized leadership is slowly (some would say that is too swiftly) giving way to more social(open) leadership. In its classical command-and control leadership style, the leadership was identified by its position, authority and power, whereas in this new age – this paradigm has suffered a lot – resulting in lack of innovation, participation and creativity, passion and accountability. The new positioning is for business to recreate leaders embracing open leadership who see themselves more as coaches, facilitators, investors and partners. The boundaries inside an organization have become more permeable; knowledge and innovations can easily transfer inward and outward. All involved elements in the organization participate and influence decisions in the process helping these companies to perform better than their rivals on employee retention and morale, and other performance measures like innovation, profitability and market leadership. A very towering presence serves as the backdrop for this change: your business does not embrace social media – its social media that embraces your business and creates a huge perturbation effect so to say! Every organization is becoming a social organization. The challenges organization faces is how to evolve into a social organization. This evolution will affect individual staff, internal processes, and the structure and culture of the organization association – every part of the organization gets affected and that includes leadership within the organization.
Simple and appealing right ? No, not that easy for all business to embrace such things so easily. As they say in organizational change management, hard change( say process, technology) is soft and soft change( human beaviour) is hard. Ask the question why is social hard ? Charlene has the answer: It’s because real relationship requires you to cede control and win by influence! She explains, having the confidence and humility to give up the need to be in control, while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals is the basic tenet of open leadership. Open leadership is coming to organizations—companies, non-profits, governments, schools—because we are in the middle of a fundamental shift in power, one in which individuals have the ability to broadcast their views to the world. It means that the person at the top no longer controls the flow of information, and without that the leader is no longer the best person to make all the decisions. To be open, you need to let go of the need to be in control. You need to develop the confidence—to develop the trust—that when you let go of control, the people to whom you pass the power will act responsibly. Leaders who are unable to let go in this new world of social media will eventually find themselves at the head of a sorry band of unimaginative time-servers.
Open Leadership argues that a new organizational structure is required to accommodate and benefit from the culture of sharing that social media has fueled over the last few years. Charlene’s new book, “Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead”, is essentially about how leaders can tap into the power of the social technology revolution and how to be “open” while still maintaining control. Does it sound paradoxical? No! Not at all.
Charlene argues for openness but cautions toprovide for disciplined control. Practically speaking, this is being more grounded on reality – open leadership is not like laissez-fair leadership. While this may look like a natural progression in the business scheme of embracing technology advances, the reality is that there is a huge challenge for executives and leadership teams to embrace openness while maintaining control. Charlene helps provide that framework with her new book – this is relevant to all business that are exploring the new social web and creating/refining an approach towards effectively embracing them. This has come at the right moment, when almost all business – big and small have been confronted with this challenge /opportunity of embracing the social web actively and in an effective manner.
And, now about the structure of the book: I like the fact the book is organized into three sections – 1. Upside of giving up control. 2. Crafting Your Open Strategy, 3.Redefining Relationships. The book starts with a persuasive argument as to why giving up control is non-negotiable and goes on to define ten characteristics of being open (In my view, openness is a journey – difficult to define in a scientific way, but can only be characterized – the more we travel this route, the more enriching the characteristics become). Section two helps delineate the methods of custom creating open strategy – with means to initializing with determinations of how open to be, followed by understanding benefits and measuring the value of being open. The idea of “Sandbox Covenants” is a very powerful metaphor and can act as a tool for strategizing openness and executing the strategy.
Creating a robust mechanism for social graphic profile definitions – the steps include Social Audit, Engagement Audit and Influence Audit is a powerful tool and as told by Charlene in the chapter of orchestrating your own social strategy is a very powerful message and a robust mechanism for business to follow with a social fabric while on the open leadership path. The framework of organic, centralized, co-ordinated forms of openness is an important advance in the study and practice of openness. Part three focuses on the mind set changes and skills, executives need to learn to foster a climate of openness inside their business and means to nurture openness, imperative of failures and transformational case studies centered on organizations like Cisco, Dell and Proctor & Gamble.
Very rich and well known examples and case studies from an array of organizations have been included and widely quoted within the book – Best Buy, Cisco, Google, Kodak, Microsoft, The State Bank Of India, United Airlines, U.S.Department Of State, etc I like the book’s structure and presentation for three reasons :
A.Its about strategy but highly actionable Refreshingly, most chapters come with actionable lists.
B. The examples are of Large corporate behemoths – the Fortune 500 types and this shows the power, reach and results of openness as we can all see. (Charlene must be complemented for this – by relating to examples that all can find out with some efforts and research adds to the credibility) and the need to embrace failure where needed and learn from those.
C. The very easy to read style and the fact the actionable frameworks can be applied to business of all sizes, shape and color.
Needless to say, this is a good read for leaders planning to effectively embrace openness and leverage social technologies inside their organizations.