In her book, ‘Open Leadership: how social technology can transform the way you lead’, Charlene Li defines the concept of open leadership as,’ having the confidence and humility to give up the need to be control while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals’.
Fundamental to this is the acknowledgement that open leadership fosters new relationships and these new relationships require ‘new rules’. Li suggests that these new rules are:
- Respect that your customers and employees have power.
- Share constantly to build trust.
- Nurture curiosity and humility.
- Hold openness accountable.
- Forgive failure.
The practice of ‘Open leadership’ as suggested by Li poses several challenges for those in leadership. Core to this challenge is the need for those in leadership to relinquish control. In the past much of leadership has been defined by the very notion of control, so much so that it would now seem counter-intuitive to suggest the opposite. But this is the new reality of leadership into the future.
Those leaders afraid to relinquish their throne might just lose more than that; they might lose their head as well! Samuel Huntington, in Political Order in Changing Societies (1968), wrote about the “king’s dilemma” to illustrate the challenge brought about by an enlightened and connected populace. The case study referral was the printing press but the same concern exists for social technologies, except this time the change brought about and its subsequent impact is on steroids by comparison!
Saying goodbye to control will define successful leadership in the new world of work. Social technologies are not the enemy here; in fact they will become the leaders best ally. Management gurus James Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge, define leadership as a ‘relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow’. Social technologies are redefining the very essence of this relationship and this is what leaders need to be aware of and then know how to respond accordingly.
If it is true that the mind works best in the presence of a question then Li offers some helpful questions around which to engage when it comes to this subject. With these new rules in mind, here are some helpful questions to be both asking and exploring as a starting point:
- What are you biggest challenges and fears when it comes to your customers or employees using social technologies?
- What is the one thing about which you are most nervous about giving up control?
- Where do you see the greatest opportunities in letting go and being open?
After all, better your throne than your head!