Open Leadership – Some Sanity
Openness is central to the integration of social media with leadership and business.
I had one leader skeptically say, “Let’s see what happens three years from now,” as if social media was going away like a fad or bad dream. I say, “bad dream,” because I think large, top down, command and control organizations are scrambling like cock roaches under the glare that openness creates. In so doing, they are missing opportunity.
In many cases, command and control business cultures require secrecy and fear. Secrecy creates fear and fear motivates underlings to lie by telling top-dogs what they want to hear.
Openness undermines secrecy, diminishes fear, and nurtures trust.
How Open – Some sanity about Social Media
Social Media hasn’t ended the basic idea that business exists to add value to customers and constituents in ways that generate profit. Drucker put it this way, “The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.”
The power and relevance of Social Media depends on alignment with the purpose of business.
Openness for the sake of openness is weak, foolish, and ineffective. Additionally, openness isn’t a magic genie that cures your leadership problems, creates world peace, and generates unending wealth. If you aren’t careful, it actually creates problems.
Charlene Li explains the four strategic objectives that openness can achieve.
- Learning. First and foremost, organizations know that they must learn from employees, customers, and partners before they can do anything else.
- Dialog. Communications – both internal and external – transforms a relationship from that of shouting out one way messages to a dialog, between equals. Along the way people become more engaged.
- Support. People both inside and outside the organization need support at different times – ranging from pre-sale to post-sale.
- Innovating. Creativity needs to be fostered, but both inside and outside the organization.
Tomorrow: Open Leadership – the Failure Imperative
Yesterday’s post: Open Leadership
What can openness do for you or your organization?
What should organizations NOT be open about?
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Openness will only be effective if there is dialogue as per your definition above Dan. Companies must not put it out there if you are not willing to respond to their clients/staff as an organization. Sometimes organizations get themselves in a pickle by wanting to “be seen to be doing the right thing” rather than being authentic! I guess Social Media is still evolving but I think it is very short sighted to not embrace it as part of your business strategy.
As a self-employed Training Consultant, I don’t have colleagues close at hand to discuss issues with. Being open about some of my problems or needs on Linked in has brought me a wealth of ideas and information shared by other people who understand my issues. And it pleases me when someone really appreciates and carries on a discussion with the things I have offered. I guess I think of it as “Sharing” as much as Openness. Thanks for the good info you keep providing!
Openness exposes invisible practices that actually hinder growth. Openness clears many stumbling block that prevents efforts. Openness also prevents negative perception created by distorting informations or by creating wrong information. It creates harmony where sharing and caring take place. People understand each other and share their feelings. When people are opened up they express their emotions and that is the point where trust and relationship created.
The informations that damage organisational reputation shoul not be open. There is a need to measure and analyse the potential benefit and threats of openess. Simply being open may not be healthy practice.
I agree that command and control creates fear. Where there is a fear, there is greed too. Greed of position, greed of power, greed of self interest etc. So, absense of fear does not mean that people are cowardice or they do not have courage to face problems. It means that people own responsibility and accoutabiliy voluntarily. They respect people by heart not by force.
It is true that fear distorts fact and compel one to tell lie. Fear motivates negatively. It disperses efforts whereas trust is positive motivation that combine coordinated effort towards organisatinal goal.
This blog ties in nicely with a few other topics I have been responding to lately regarding whether love and leadership should ever be used in the same sentence. Curious? When we care about our customers and our employees, we want to share information, to engage them, to build on their strengths and ideas. We shouldn’t want to draw them into our fear – this only creates a slippery slope. Openness is about the former, not the latter, which of course, you have already said! Great series, Dan. Can’t wait until tomorrow.
Maybe it is why I have always ended up in non profits or quasi-governmental work, but I believe leadership without love (for the people and the cause) is ….not necessarily leadership. I am looking forward to reading your series on this!
Social media openness has put the exchange of communication at warp speed and completely changed the way power is shared.
I am not 100% sure this is true, but I read that when Kodak cameras were first introduced around the turn of the century, users had to pay for a “permit” – something about the idea of procuring lasting images of others seemed risky. Hmmm. These days, images of other people and things, both good and bad, are ubiquitous thanks to smart phones and digital cameras. Perhaps some kind of promise/license on these folks’ part NOT to misuse the images wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all!
For my organization in particular, I think openness could go a long way toward helping us coordinate the moving parts inherent in having so many partners. Although my organization itself is responsible for eligibility and other details of Florida’s State Child Health Insurance Program, we contract with a Third Party Administrator to do the work as well as 11 managed care organizations, all under the auspices of a board of directors representing four separate state agencies and the governor. Phew! Sometimes we incorporate openness well, but there is definitely room for improvement.
RE: what should organizations NOT be open about? I think there is a difference between being open about how procedures should be undertaken and the policy behind them, and the interesting but necessary only to management “behind the scenes” negotiations about certain points of doing business — those may only confuse staff who really don’t need to know and who may be distracted by the busy static of unnecessary info.
Great post, I am looking forward to hearing what the rest of the LF community has to say!
“Openness” a great word to describe a critical component of leadership. Leaders can’t be a “mushroom” and be a truly effective leader!!! Dan, wishing you and your family a Happy New Year. Howie
Transparent leadership must be practiced in today’s work ecosystems. Empowering teams to lead without fear is all a part of open leadership but many leaders still don’t empower others; instead they hoard power. Charlene’s book is right on the money.
Very interesting post! I was particularly intrigued by this quote, “The power and relevance of Social Media depends on alignment with the purpose of business.” As I’ve watched social media evolve over the last few years, it’s been interesting to see how companies are struggling to determine how to use it based on their business model. I’ve watched some companies really shine in their use of social media, while others fail miserably. It all boils down to aligning the strategy with the purpose of your business. I think many companies struggle with social media because they don’t manage it strategically.
Openness in leadership is analogous to open source technology – not inevitably the best strategy, but certainly one that must be seriously considered. There is a reason that Android outsells iPhone despite the latter’s huge head start, and that is the power of open platforms where everything is known and available to everyone. Open solutions are rarely as elegant as Apple’s closed system gems, but make up for it with explosive creativity.
No doubt-high trust collaboration & adaptive learning are huge organizational competencies critical to next business cycle.
The opportunities to create multiple levels and depths of interconnectedness with these four elements that Li identifies define average, good and great organizations…and cultures. Free flowing communication is the river or ocean, with support, innovation and learning being ships that navigate and sail sometimes uncharted waters. Once charted, as MP noted with Apple, sleeker, more creative ships can move quickly and pass those who led the way.
We should have an interesting collision in a few years. An infographic last week indicated, in 5 years Chinese will be the dominate language on the internet. Given the four tenets of this post, that prediction, the openness of the net and the current rather closed Chinese culture, should make for a new type of leadership yet again.
There is a difference between openness and foolishness. This post sets them apart. I think for some traditional leaders it will be hard not to compartmentalize and lead. In this century where teams are in various locations, changing job titles and roles, the leaders have to adapt to this and openness is the only constant that can help them be good leaders.
Reading this reminded me of some great parenting advice I received long ago. Simply put, pretend someone is watching. Before you react to your screaming toddler or impossible teenager, think about how you would respond if someone was watching you. That someone can be anyone, your parents, a friend, a child rearing expert, anyone that will cause you to stop and think before you react. This advice has helped me navigate through some choppy waters particularly during those times when your stress level is already through the roof.
Is this worthy advice for our daily business activities? If pretending our customers and/or employees are watching causes us to really think before we act, it can’t be a bad thing!
How do you create openness in an agency that has huge communication flaws? How do you get the leadership in this agency to understand the need for openness and clarity?
Model it yourself…that way you can sleep better at night.
Ask genuine questions that provide a broader context and still benefits the organization.
Reframe to bottom line which is meeting the customer’s needs and perspectives.
Has any organization ever been accused of over communicating?
Learning and growth are intertwined, if an organization is not learning, it is dying.
Even if you are happy in your current employment, keep looking at options and keep a fresh resume.
I concur with Doc. The cliché of “be the change you want to see in others” holds true. However, the reality check is that it won’t be easy. That’s the “fun” of working in communications and conflict resolution- being in the position to help others when they need it most.
I empahasize help others and not do it for them as ‘doing it for them’ reduces the potential of any communication strategy from being effective or sustainable.
I wrote earlier this month at another site (conflictcoaching.co.uk i think) about working with the media. A point i stressed is when you are not the boss, you can only do so much. When it doesn’t work or get implemented, don’t give up- it is always a work in progress 🙂
Thanks Jeff…and yes, Gandhi does ring true!! Truly we can only change ourselves.
In our culture, we tend to focus our attention and efforts on having, and repeating, the “right answer.” People in general, and leaders in particular, are compelled to know what to do and how to do it. If this knowing is a prerequisite for us, there is little need for, or benefit from, being open. If we, as leaders, actually have the “right answer,” being open is a distraction and a waste of time.
I believe that the world, even our own part of it, is changing. More and more people are understanding the practical benefits and value of openness and listening, and are questioning whether having the “right answer” is even possible, much less required for leadership. We are beginning to create new approaches to work, and new ways of working together, based on these new ways of understanding which change the way we think and talk about what we do. We may not be affecting “organizations,” we may be developing something new.
Openness must not be confused with being willing to be open. Commitment is essential if openness is to be realized in any relationship whether professional or personal. The commitment to build trust with another provides the catalyst for openness.
“Seek first to understand, then be understood,” is a quote that comes to mind with this blog / book. Too many leaders fail to listen and hear the real issues. Openness also promotes trust between the leader and others. We don’t trust those who hide things from us (even if it’s for our own good). When followers trust their leaders, then good things happen. It sounds like “Open Leadership” covers these and other key elements.
I love this post! I think openness in a way creates a sense of equality and value that everybody’s perceptions matter and can make a difference. It allows groups to work together and feel a sense of belonging and connecting rather than being told what to do. It gives work a sense of meaning. However, openness without integrity and authenticity could create chaos.
I am so happy to have found this blog! Having been a non-profit leader, and now as a leadership & career coach, I find great value in having forums for discussing how leadership shifts given new technology and cultural mores.
Being open was my default position as a leader. I found it to be very important to share information, strategy, progress toward goals, and rationales behind policy decisions with my entire 100+ team.
First and foremost , being open helped create a sense of community, of shared purpose, of buy-in and alignment with the overall organization’s goals. My experience showed me that, to fulfill larger goals, it’s essential for every person in an organization to understand the goals and how their ideas and work fit into, support and enable the reaching of those goals. And then people need to understand how they share in the rewards from reaching those goals. Openness requires leaders who share information about the organization’s work and progress in every area.
The other side of openness is that leaders then must be open themselves to questions, criticisms, and challenges. I remember learning about the principle of listening to the dissenter from a decision or way of thinking. When I led a non-profit, I made a practice of asking that person to explain their dissent. In all cases, the person raised a point that was essential to our making a better decision or changing our way of thinking.
Does openness lead to trust? It can, as long as all are equally committed to being open and using information in a constructive way. I find more often that openness is an attitude that comes from self-confidence and trust in those who surround you, that we all are engaged in the same work, heading in the same direction. Someone has to start the culture shift into openness and that person is the leader, who doesn’t punish someone for disagreeing but rather welcomes it as a way to grow and improve.
An open leader is not always welcomed or understood by other leaders or by higher-ups. Our dominant business culture still tends toward secrecy and hoarding information. “Because I said so” is more common than “Here’s why I think this works, and what do you think?” It’s hard work to be open, to bring others into a process. And it’s not always comfortable to be challenged. I like your focus on how social media IS changing the leadership landscape, like it or not.
There are some things that leaders need to keep to themselves, specifically the very political dynamics with a Board that could lead the rest of the team to feel insecure and nervous about their own future. That said, there are times when it’s necessary to share some of those dynamics so people know there is change afoot and can begin to make emotional adjustments. Timing is everything in openness, as with so many other things.
Thanks again for the opportunity to read and comment on this great topic.
I think that like most things in life, the balance is at center. TMI (too much information) is TMI, whether personal or corporate. We all know someone guilty of TMI. And not enough is not enough. What is polite in the one circumstance is likely to be considered polite in the other and visa versa.
When we communicate on a personal level with people we’ve just met, we create conversation, a base point for communication, we’re friendly, but not too forward either. And as a relationship unfolds, we act accordingly. If communication never moves past the first hello, a relationship is not going to follow.
I think business is much the same. If your organization were an actual person, what kind of person would it be considered?
This is a great book to read. Charlene Li has such an amazing way in putting innovative ideas into perspective, both new and old. Anybody who is lucky enough to win a copy of this will certainly be in for a treat!
Great contest, Dan!
P.S. I already have my own copy, so please don’t consider me for it… I just wanted to jump in and share some excitement! 🙂
Thanks Dan. Helpful stuff. I am currently working through my thoughts and attitudes about leadership…specifically mine. It’s challenging, difficult but definitely worth the effort. Having recently read the chapter on “Thinking Gray” from “A Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership”, this further clarifies changes I need to make.
Openness to me equals being transparent. People are looking for leaders to be real. They want to relate to leaders and there is no better way than being real and open!
On some level I see “Open Leadership” as being vital to successful and effective communication practices within an organization. To be an effective and “Open Leader”, the basics of good listening skills are the strongest element of effective communication. Secrecy and fear hold back organizations over time and if fear is the motivator effective communication begin to falter on many levels. I see “Open Leadership” not as the end-all be-all but simply as facilitating a strong sense of communication and trust from the top down that both engages and empowers others. My own mentor practiced a version of “Open Leadership” and for that I am thankful to her perspective and insight.
Great work/series Dan! Keep em coming….I have a lot to learn!
Please include me! Thx
People should be genuinely open and not be open for the sake of transparency. The genuinity shows and no matter how hard you try to be open you will always make mistakes as it is not genuine.
Openness from leaders shows that he/she is not perfect! Great tool!
I had the opportunity to look at this book last night at the bookstore. It was very interesting. I wrote an article about empowering our people and their creativity. This process builds trust, among other things. Check it out http://voicesofleadership.blogspot.com/2010/12/let-them-shine.html
Something i would like to add to dialog:
I try to make it proactive as much as possible. That helps develop the relationships, build rapport and comes across as being more genuine.
This is compared to waiting until there are issues or conflict arising and trying to create a relationship, build trust and resolve the dispute all at once!
Great discussion and dialogue. I’ve been a fan of Charlene Li since reading “Groundswell” by Charlene and Josh Bernoff. I’ll echo what Amber Fogerty said above in her comments. Many companies fail to realize the benefits of social media because they fail to align with their business plan. It is so important to have a strategy for implementing and carrying out an effective social media initiative. It’s also critical to know your customers or target audience and how they are engaged in social media. Not all social media channels are right for every company. The channel needs to fit your company and your audience.
Open Leadership allows Sr. Management in corporate America to get a real sense of what is happening in the market place, it allows to the lower level employee, the one that touches the customer directly:
– Communicates upper down, bottom up
– Flexible in a informal or formal way
– Quick or Fast
– Open to everybody, reaching out the masses
– Insider and Outsider (Employees, Investors, Customers, etc)
The downside; one the gates are open, there has to be 100% commitment to move forward.
To be honest I haven’t read any of Charlene’s books, but this is one that I would like to start with. We are organizing a team to open a teen center in our community and I think this would be a great book to share with our leadership. Thanks
The challenge with social media and openness is that social media is still a marketing tool. Everyone can become their own image manager. So the leader must generate a culture of genuine openness, or else the social media will simply be another tool for underlings to tell top-dogs what they want to hear.
The chaallenge with social media and openess is remembering to be stratigic when communicating. Enjoyed reading post. Especially when using the clipboard on the iPad.
The vast differences between Openness and Command and Control bring to mind the behaviors in a Leader vs Manager. I can’t help but share something from Warren Bennis, “On Becoming a Leader” that has been a guidepost:
The manager administers; the leader innovates.
The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.
The manager maintains; the leader develops.
The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
The manager accepts reality; the leader investigates it.
The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader has his or her eye on the horizon.
The manager imitates; the leader originates.
The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.
The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.
Thank you for this series. I have been enjoying it.
Social Media is here to stay. It is an electronic version of human nature. Openness is something we are born with and over time as we have ‘matured’ it is coached out. We have fooled ourselves into thinking that ‘command and control’ is natural and openness is unnatural. Embrace openness, free yourself and those around you.
Early in my career, I struggled through some deep waters in reference to secrecy, fear, and distrust. There were so many people around me steeped in this way of thinking and acting and I constantly felt like I needed air and escape. Thankfully, at great cost, I struggled through to the other side and now lead people strategically toward openness.
I’ve always believed communication is crucial…and now more than ever. Social media is simply going to continue to magnify the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of our communication.
Thanks for sharing a bit of your own story!
Openness is a concept long overdue in our our North American culture. Secrecy, Obsessive control and lack of trust, as well as lack of respect for innovative ideas from young and idealistic new memebrs of our groups have long held us back from becoming the best we can be. No I am not young; I do however have a lot of faith in the younger generation’s abilty to make this work. Each gegneration takes a step forward. My grandmother’s generation got the vote for women, my mother’s generation began treating their children like real people. My generation questioned the “establishment” and I beleive got this ball rolling. There will be glitches and scammers but we are making progress. Don’t be cynical. Help it along by opening up a little and you will find that it brings joy into your life because you will establish realtionships on the basis of humanness instead of position. Christina’s quote from warren benis says it all about leading in an era of openness but will require a certain degree of self confidence. you have to believe in yourself before you can believe in others. Above all enjoy!