“Power to the People,” by John Lenon was released nearly 30 years ago. It’s coming true today.
When power is viewed as a zero sum game, empowering one group disempowers another. Furthermore, power for one destabilizes others. In my opinion, viewing power as a zero sum game is the main reason top-down, command and control organizations are afraid of social media.
Charlene Li’s book, Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, begins with, “Why Giving Up Control Is Inevitable.”
“Business leaders are terrified about the power of social technologies, but they are also intrigued and excited about the opportunities,” (Open Leadership, p. 7). My experience includes another group of leaders, the ones whose eyes glaze over when the topic of social media comes up. I feel like saying to this group, “Give it up, the 8-track isn’t coming back.”
Li’s book is foundational for anyone interested in leading in a world radically changed by social media. Notice the past tense, “changed.” It’s true, social media is changing the world. More importantly, with over 10% of the world’s population on Facebook, it’s already profoundly changed the way we think about communication and relationships.
In view of social media tools that radically empower customers and employees, Li offers five rules that govern how new relationships work in the business world.
- Respect that your customers and employees have power.
- Share constantly to build trust.
- Nurture curiosity and humility. (In leaders and managers)
- Hold openness accountable. Explain the extent and limits of openness. List consequences when social media is misused.
- Forgive failure. “Things go wrong all the time in relationships and the healthiest ones move on from them, …”
More from “Open Leadership,” tomorrow…
Which of Li’s 5 rules do you find most challenging or exciting?
How do you see social media changing leadership?
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Related Post: Open Leadership – Some Sanity
This looks like a great book Dan – thanks for pointing it out. Now to your question… #5. Forgive failure. “Things go wrong all the time in relationships and the healthiest ones move on from them, …” is the one I struggle with. When things don’t go as planned, I natuarally want to work extra hard to fix it and get it back on track. I HATE to give up.
I have a very pragmatic friend who tells me that this is my greatest strength AND my greatest weakness. Lucky for me, I have some great advisors who help me analyse the situation and occasionally “let this one go” so that I can move on to the next opportunity. It works well – when I listen.
Dan – can’t wait to see tomorrow’s post! This is a great and timely topic, for all of us. The rule I struggle with the most is sharing constantly.
This implies, at least for me, a transparency that is almost unheard of today – so that may also be the answer to your second question, as well.
From my perspective, since I am a solopreneur, it means more transparency into my life that I may or may not be willing to provide.
It certainly means a great deal of transparency into who I am – my values, my thoughts, my vision, and this builds trust as she says, because it is my personal brand, the me of me. Fortunately, I’m okay with that. People know how I fit into the cosmic oneness at that point, don’t they? And that is the ultimate goal.
Your comment about power as a zero sum game is what caught my eye the most. That one little statement says worlds. I inherently see everything from a win-win perspective. I had not thought about the zero sum game perspective and how that can and does shape peoples views. Thanks for in the light bulb. I have a zero sum person in my midst today.
As far as your question, I would say it is #3, “Nurture curiosity and humility”. I have the most difficulty getting people to exhibit humility, not only for their own personal growth, but also as a tool to build openness and trust among their teams. There is nothing better than showing you are human in front of your team. A lot of people are afraid of this, because they see it as weakness.
Thanks for making me think more deeply.
Dan, thank you for sharing about Charlene Li’s book. This topic and her perspective begs the question of the next frontier in Leadership: openness, emotions, and balance. I’m looking forward to reading her book!
Of Li’s five rules that you have listed above, I see the greatest challenge with “Holding Openness Accountable.” For me, the questions that come into play are, “Who defines accountability? Who is accountable to whom? Who defines the rules and consequences for not following them?” And, finally, “Who enforces the consequences and how do they enforce them?”
In our fast-evolving world of high tech, what is a negative or limiting consequence to one is a free hall-pass to another. And, being the accountability policeman brings its own limitations and consequences.
Since I have not read Li’s book, my comments are premature and may be addressed. Therefore, I’m eagerly awating my Amazon.com delivery!
All the 5 rules are challenging. They are closed linked and lead to another. One is driver of other and vice versa. However, I think, respect, trust and humility are the most challenging, desirable and productive elements of leadership. Repecting cusotmers and employees create trust and it is possible when you have humility. I also believe that humility is highly desirable element of leadership journey. Leadership is not a position but a journey. When leaders concern about position, humility dies and when leaders thinks leadership is a journey, they live with humility. So, our intention makes all the difference.
I think social media has changed the way we used to think. It has created personal space for individual. It has created space to express your feelings, desires and interest without fear. It has created trust among users because there is no one either to interfare or command. And absense of interferance and command create confidence and trust among masses. Every human beings need respect and identity. And Social media has met both requirement without hitch. Social media has created open platform for every section of society. And I strongly believe that it is a trasformation of people, thoughts, relations and emotions.
Thanks for the post…now to seek and answernyour two questions.
Which of Li’s 5 rules do you find most challenging or exciting?
Really numbers 4 & 5 in my thinking are going to have to be the challenge. Why, well you will have to place it in four in thfe list of consequences in order to bring about forgiveness that number five asks!
How do you see social media changing leadership?
Great question re: how social media changes leadership.
In some cases it makes leadership and management skills more important. It’s easy to tell someone what to do. It’s more difficult to include them in the process. Social and communication skills become more important.
Leaderships ability to clearly establish and articulate organizational values, mission and vision is central to success in an open organization. In once sense openness demands greater clarity about the playing field and then greater freedom to play once the boundaries are established.
Learning where not to be open is also crucial. And once leaders determine where they will be closed they should also clearly articulate that as well.
thanks for your comment and question.
Best to you,
Hello, LF Community. In response to Dan’s question about which of the five rules I find most challenging/exciting, I chose #2: Share constantly to build trust.
Although Li’s five rules are specific to social technology, I am going to try to frame my comment in a different context. I have recently read two books about wartime – Unbroken, about World War II, and I am currently reading Matterhorn, about the Vietnam War. It simply amazes me how differently I and my generation (and those younger than me) perceive the world. I wonder how things would have been different had the WWII or Vietnam War soldiers I am reading about had social technology (or constant sharing and trust building).
There are two lines specifically in Matterhorn that sent chills up my spine: 1) when the troops are being engulfed in a noxious fog sent down by an overhead plane that arrived a day early (after the troops are supposed to have moved on). One soldier asks command what it is. The response? “Oh don’t worry, it’s just a defoliant – it won’t hurt humans – something called Agent Orange.” The second is when the 19 year old protagonist’s girlfriend is trying to convince him to try to get a deferment – he argues about the reasons for the military activity in Vietnam: “Our government wouldn’t lie to us.”
I realize that in a military situation there are myriad reasons why “constant sharing to build trust” is not entirely possible. But I am still left to wonder how communication in military situations might have led to different outcomes for generations of young people whose lives were cut short or forever changed.
Interesting you bring up the military … Li has a great illustration of openness from the US Navy.
Dan, Thanks for tackling this subject. I think the hardest of the 5 is the last one. We all make mistakes and fail from time to time. I think the key is when we learn from our mistakes, incorporate them into our training programs and empower our people. When we have a empowered work force, they are not afraid to go forward and bring up new ideas. I wrote a post about forgiving and moving on a couple weeks back. You can find it here if your interested. http://voicesofleadership.blogspot.com/2010/12/forgive-and-then-learn-from-it.html
Sounds like another great book Dan! I think rule #4 “Hold Openness Accountable” is the biggest challenge. Although social media has allowed us to be more open and express our ideas and opinions in wonderful ways it has also had some distinctly negative effects. I’m thinking of those people who seemingly make an innocent post on a social media outlet and lose their jobs over what they’ve said. Then there are those who make comments and post blogs that are just plain mean and nasty. Although I think accountability is necessary, where do we draw the line on accountability and how do we enforce it?
Dan, I would like to know more about your attraction to Li’s book. As an 80’s Est graduate exposed to the relationship and life consequences of playing a zero sum game, I couldn’t help but wonder about your experiences with zero sum paradigms.
Thanks for the book suggestion by Charlene Li. It looks very good.
I agree that power is seen by some as a “zero sum gain”….by those who only see power, by those who continually see what they don’t have, and by those who continually see the glass half empty.
I also agree that social media has a kind of check on those who would limit access to information and power. However, what “social media” exactly?
If we look at Social Media as a new kind of town square with millions of voices in the town square, how is information and power shared? What’s the filter?
And, who controls the Social Media? Apple? Microsoft? Or is my thinking too limited?
If we’re chasing the ends of openness and access to information….to what end are we chasing these values? What are the ultimate ends and what exactly are the means?
We have much more access to information now than ever before….and social media is allowing us to have more of a voice than ever before…. But, are we really any better off than our ancestors were 80 years ago?
I have this image that all we’ve really done is enlarge the town square….from something physical to something that now includes the cyber-town square.
Our actual town squares, in each of our actual communities, are not better off I believe…..but we’re all talking more….. Are we all talking about the right things? We have more information than ever before, but what information are we sharing?
Dan, great post and generous offer to your readers. Was just watching Fareed Zakaria’s Leadership Program yesterday and was taken by the common theme amongst leaders he spoke with — fostering an open environment for ideas, opinions, as well as trialing those ideas which ties to Charlene’s 5th rule: Forgive failure.
Too many organizations maintain an environment counter to this, where fear of failure stifles innovation and sometimes growth. They often lack trust, and you need leaders (many leaders) for trust to thrive and create this form of loyalty and freedom to fail (forward hopefully) and still have healthy relationships.
While I see social media changing leadership, I think I see it revealing leadership even more. While I cannot tell much about a man from his newspaper ad, I can tell lot by his blog/twitter feed.
Some have revealed themselves to be free-ad hungry, shameless promoters who seem to have nothing on mind but selling their product.
Others have displayed generosity with information, re-tweeting, promoting other people’s article/product, and interacting with their consumers.
Perhaps the change would be that those who are shallow will now learn to care or cope with crashing.
Thanks for your blog! I enjoy reading many of the articles! Mine launches Jan 01. I’m sure I’ll be directing people to yours a lot!
Powerful and important book
As for me, #2 (Trust). Without it, the other 4 won’t happen effectively.
As for how Social Media will change leadership, I’ll use my consultant’s answer: “It depends.”
There are still those that hang on to the “8-track” mentality of command and control. They will probably see their influence over their followers deteriorate as they desperately try to hang on to that which got them where they are.
Those that embrace the social media environment have all kinds of challenges ahead of them – how to use it, how to manage (not control) in a more open communication environment – but if building trust is at the forefront of why they are doing it, the rewards will be there.
We all need to continue to learn more Leadership in our life. Weather it’s for family or business, or more important our direction in Life itself. I am just a student of another Leader. So I can lead others in my walk. Thank you Dan, and will continue to follow on Twitter.
I think that social media is improving leadership by telling more people about techniques and philosophies that wouldn’t have seen it before. I wouldn’t have found as many entries were it not for twitter and facebook connections.
Great book to do some fine tuning in the organization for 2011. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and have given it as a gift to my officemates and CEO of our company. I do not have a copy myself and would love to have one (maybe signed by Charlene Li, herself).
Another great blog! Did you hear back on that blog of the year competition?
I find as relationships become more and more online, this leaves room for leaders to standout by meeting people in person.
Be different! If everyone submits an e-mail, hand deliver or mail in your application with a picture.
Here’s to the future, yet harnessing the beauties and traditions of our history! : )
What an interesting post: When power is viewed as a zero sum game, empowering one group disempowers another. I’ll be chewing on that for awhile. Rule #2 is a personal challenge for me – I have worked in many places where the exclusivity of knowing something gave that knowledge value. It is a huge step to think about putting that information out there – for free – and how that would benefit the organization. Baby steps.
In response to “How do you see social media changing leadership”…
Here is the tag line from my blog: Social media is the cyber glue between leaders and leaders-in-the-making. For the first time in history we have easy access to the best minds, the best thinking, and even the greatest errors from which to learn. What a fantastic growth opportunity!
The book sounds interesting. I’d love the opportunity to read it. I think #1 (Respect that your customers and employees have power) has always been true but not well understood. Everyone has a choice. Understanding what motivates someone to buy your product is key. With Social Media, this may be easier, as you follow potential customers and learn what makes them tick. That’s our power as Marketers.
I like the “hold openness accountable” In general, I think holding some of the key soft skills accountable would make a huge difference. E.g. not just openness, but also trustworthiness (yeah, tough to measure, but I’d be okay with subjective) honesty, etc. Note that these may look very different if “measured by your boss” vs. measured by your team, peers, customers, etc. It isnt good enough to be open, honest and trustworthy to your boss.
social networks have become an important marketing strategy for many companies.
compared to huge print/tv campaigns, a social campaign can be comparatively cheaper if the targeting of the campaigns are perfect or near perfect.
humility goes a long way in building up a good image for a company. humble well informed employees at a store are much better than
aggressive and arrogant,even though they might be well informed too,employees.
I find all five both exciting and challenging, depending on the culture of the organization. – Having an environment of customer and employee power may be very threatening for some, while other will embrace it. Same with the other four – this looks like a good book with lot’s a valuable insights.
Thanks for asking
Social media has created a need for openness that was not always necessary before. Business are becoming transparent whether they want to or not and its best to embrace this change.
Great way to start a new year…or get ready to start a new year!
“1. Respect that your customers and employees have power.” While leaders may perceive that they have the power and control, in this case the perception is not the reality.
“2. Share constantly to build trust.” This is about building connections, which are key to trust. And trust requires time to strengthen those connections. While not yet a word, inclusivity may fit for #2 & #4.
“3. Nurture curiosity and humility.” Create an ongoing learning environment where #5 is a given.
“4. Hold openness accountable.” Free flowing and modeled by leadership creates an environment where 1-5 thrive.
“5. Forgive failure.” I like ’embrace failure’…tied to #3, how leadership endorses and responds to failures demonstrates where leadership is on the openness continuum.
Which of Li’s 5 rules do you find most challenging or exciting? All, #2 takes focus and energy. #5 is probably the best thermometer of an organization’s transition.
“How do you see social media changing leadership?” You used the present tense here Dan, rightfully so as leadership must evolve to be effective and responsive. At what point do leaders say they will pay attention to social media? 10% of the population of the world? 20%…hmmm.
I do appreciate Li’s perspective on this and want to recognize a couple of folks who had observations that may align with this book…
“There is nothing new except what has been forgotten.”- Marie Antoinette
And least we forget, perhaps several decades ahead of his time, Marshall McLuhen,–> “the medium is the message” asked four questions…they do apply to the current social media options….
“What does it (the medium or technology) extend?”
“What does it make obsolete?”
“What is retrieved?”
“What does the technology reverse into if it is over-extended?”
Great dialogue all!
“Open Leadership” will be added to my list of exciting, new books to read in 2011.
It has been my experience that leaders are particularly challenged by rule number 2, “Share constantly to build trust.” Leaders claim they want to share with their employees, but the follow-through communication is, sadly, lacking. What communication does flow down is so filtered by the time it reaches the mass that the original message can be lost. I believe that the more employees a company has, the harder it is for leaders to share and earn trust.
Interesting article. I find rule number 3 to be old that is often mentioned today. It seems that humility was not automatically referred to in leadership in time’s past. Thanks for sharing. I would like to read “Open Leadership”.
Reading Li’s first point reminded me of something she pointed out during her speech at last year’s World Business Forum – “Social media is about giving up control yet remaining in command.” I think for many leaders or those in positions of authority, it can be scary to think that your employees and your customers have power because of that prevailing idea that you need to be in control in order to be effective in your ability to lead.
What I think Li’s point here, and her comment on about giving up control illustrates is that social media is simply putting into the light something that people were always doing – communicating openly and freely about the issues/problems they face. The big difference now is that leaders have no choice but to sit down, listen, and engage, something that will actually leaders more effective as they’ll be more aware of the challenges their team faces and what they can do to help out.
Hi Dan. Another great book. I’m looking forward to read it. My favourite item is number 1. Respect that your customers and employees have power. I think this is the heart of all. The power comes from outside organizations and from employees. The leader or leaders only have to manage all the powers around. Social media has come to question the established powers.
Sounds like a great read!
What a great topic and set of questions!
Li’s #2 – Share often to build trust is the most challenging and exciting. It’s difficult to shift to posting / tweeting / blogging often. This is a given for the largest portion of the target market – 18-35 year olds. This leads me to the second answer – leading change.
Leaders need to embrace and adopt more quickly than they feel comfortable. Think of it as tweaking your golf game: when you’re doing something new to improve, if it feels wrong, you’re probably doing it right.
Great comments and feedback from the entire gallery!!
Thx Dan for this post. To answer your questions: #3, I believe curiosity and humility to be 2 of the most important human values. Curiosity: to drive with passion, to explore unchartered territories, to challenge the status quo, to discover opportunities, to be open and intrigued by others and their musing and viewpoints. Humility: to carry oneself in life with humility and dignity, to recognize how much we don’t know, and how much there’s yet to know, to accept and receive life’s gifts as growth opportunities on this wonderful journey of ours ! Now with social media: there’s much potential ahead, and what impresses me the most ’bout SM is the power of the conversation and of collaboration. People are simply amazing ! Everyday on twitter I discover worlds of diversity, people passionate about so many different things. SM offers this opportunity: to declare our living networks in new fabulous ways. Just like your post Dan, always a must stop in my daily reflexions, and I appreciate how people are engaged.
The book is something I will be anxious to get my hands on. No doubt social technologies are an important way in which our society operates. It is amazing to think where we are today and where we will be in the future in the way we interact with each other. This posting and form of interaction that we are participating in right now could not have been seen by most 15 years ago yet now we think nothing of it. Reading a book of a topic such as this I am sure will help us all to develop a clearer picture of what the up coming years will bring us.
I am new to the blog but finding it very valuable.
I’d have to say that rule #1 excites me the most. Acceptance of this by organizations would help break the paradigm that power is a zero sum game.
This book will definitely be a must read. I am part of a non-profit organization and like many other social service organizations, ours has taken baby steps with social technology. I am preparing a report that outlines the need for us to implement an aggressive social media plan if we want to stay afloat and truly serve our clients.
Li’s 5 rules touch on many of the things we have been discussing as vital to our growth and development. Our clients, homeless/low-income women and children, are part of a growing group within our society who seem to exist under the radar. This has mad it difficult to obtain the type of funding and legislation needed to reverse a growing trend in our inner cities. Our group needs to position itself so that we can cast a light on this epidemic. What better way to do this than with social technology. We have our finger on the pulse of this problem and really need to take on a leadership role if there is going to be a change.
I can’t wait to read this book. Thanks for the heads-up!
Most of our history of leadership has been wrapped up around the great man theory. Most organizations are simple autocracies and run by a single man who manages the processes and does not really consider his people.
The process of devolution is important to move power from the central part (hub) to the spokes yet still retain responsibility and functionality.
If this is what the author is speaking about, I want to read the book and implement the principles in my organization.
Hi Dan great post. I think accountability and openness would prove the most difficult for me. Not sure I have any answers at this point. Look forward to reading the book.. Regards Al
Thanks for posting this article on Charlene Li’s new book. I am very interested in learning more from this book.
To me, #3, “Nurture curiosity and humility”, is the most challenging and exciting. Leading in the business world has traditionally stifled creativity. We have simply expected our employees to follow mindlessly without asking questions. But, in light of Daniel Pink’s assertion that we are becoming a right-brain culture, we will need to adapt our leadership style to fit the exploratory nature of others, especially younger employees.
Social media is certainly changing the way we lead. Younger generations that grew up with social media have a “nomadic” learning style–they have grown accustomed to communicating frequently–wherever they are. We need to transform our leadership styles to meet their needs by giving them ongoing feedback on job performance, and by increasing our communication with them through social media.
Dan, as usual, thanks for the great content.
I would pick number three as a challenging one to master. Creativity takes time, and most small businesses, especially over the past 24 months, have been stretched super thin, with every employee wearing many hats. Therefore, to have time to slow down, and contemplate a creative response usually falls prey to the Tyranny of the Urgent!
Humility also struggles to fit in. This is a personal challenge for me. How do you remain humble and confident at the same time? This is not the place to dig into my personal exploration of this, but I think humility is essential. The problem for most is that humility is often equated with weakness, which it is NOT. In fact, the opposite is often true. IF you walk into a room of 20 people, the leader will be clearly evident in one of two ways. Either they are the most dominant, largest personality, or they are the person with the quiet strength (humility)
Very interesting concept Charlene.
And Dan, to answer your question — which is the most challenging of the 5 rules — most likely the “limits” of openness.
I can see the wagons circling to jump on the irony of it. I don’t disagree with it yet I think it is the aspect that frightens most leaders and businesses.
Once you open the door, how do you tip it ajar or even close it? Many of the “wagoneers” will claim the internet has made everything open anyway.
Yet as the world grapples with WikiLeaks (whatever side you are on) — it will continue to instill fear in all who consider open leadership.
Seems like a very interesting and relevant book. I think a lot of co-workers could benefit from this. I found this page via Twitter, and would love to win a copy!
What a great conversation about “open leadership” that you’ve fostered! I was lucky enough to get my hands on a pre-publication copy of the book this spring. To all of your readers– it is definitely worth a read! Even if you don’t win a copy here, be sure to check it out from your library or even invest the dollars to get your own copy. You won’t be disappointed.