By Marylene Delbourg-Delphis @mddelphis
In the eighties, IT folks and executives had qualms about providing desktop computers to their employees – the idea of empowering them boiled down to relinquishing command and control. Yet, the world didn’t stop turning. The accelerated rise of social media poses a similar problem, albeit much larger by an order of magnitude, because this time employees and customers didn’t ask anybody for the permission to show their power. So, either you try to fight it (with virtually no chance of winning), or you realize that you too can leverage social media, understand what Open leadership is about, and “how social technology can transform the way you lead,” in just the same way people understood how social media technology would enable them to stand up in your face.
The book “is about how leaders must let go to gain more,” “open leadership” being defined as “having the confidence and the humility to give up the need to be in control while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals.” The task is not easy, and Charlene is well aware that calls from various management experts for leaders to remodel their management styles for the last fifty years “have gone largely unanswered.” Why does she feel she can succeed while so many have been preaching in the desert?
I see two main reasons why this book has a much higher chance of impact.
1) The context: “Giving up control is inevitable.”
While many books on management have characterized the traits and mindset of open leaders along similar lines as Charlene does throughout her book, the reasons for people to change are structurally different. For the last fifty years, these reasons had somewhat of a normative undertone, ranging from becoming a more charismatic person to preparing for an undefined future. Today, the future is here, and command and control executives had better move quickly because the world where sharing, relationships, conversations, and higher levels of transparency are becoming prominent paradigms, is slipping under their feet. In short, addressing self-preservation instincts in people could be more efficient than exhorting them to greatness.
2) A measured and pragmatic approach: Open leadership through “Open-driven objectives”
No matter how convinced one may be that social media technologies will revolutionize the planet, each business is local, with its own spots of both inertia and vitality. One of the best aspects of the book is the clear acknowledgment that there are many degrees between open-door and closed-door leadership policies. This is often a fairly natural stand for a consultant to take, but harder to express positively in a book. Charlene remarkably sidesteps the problem by offering relevant examples, looking at the scope of benefits from the point of view of the various stakeholders, and establishing the checklist of any open strategy. While expounding on a correlation (although not a causality) between deep, broad engagement and financial performance, and presenting a compelling case for “new metrics for new relationships” instead compartmentalized ROI calculations, she is well aware that “each company will have a different sized sandbox, depending on how open it wants to be,” and proposes tailored and incremental approaches accordingly. But listen: “if companies like Johnson & Johnson and Wells Fargo, who are in highly regulated industries, can have an open engagement with their audiences, you can too.”
So, don’t wait to break a guitar to wake up!
It is obvious that openness transforms organizations, and multiple success stories attest to that. Yet, “the new rules of relationship created by the advent of social technologies require that you develop new skills and behaviors that accentuate and support your own individual leadership style.” Change can’t happen overnight, so there is nothing wrong with having “start small” as a mantra, and making a few mistakes. But start! Open-mindedness is the first step to open leadership, anyway.
… And read Open Leadership. This will be one of your reference books, for sure. The book will be available on May 24. Incidentally, also read Groundswell published by the same author, published in 2008.