“There has been a fundamental shift in power, one in which individuals have the ability to broadcast their views to the world.” - Charlene Li
This fundamental shift in power is occurring primarily because of the following three reasons:
More people are online
A widespread use of social sites
The rise (and facile nature) of sharing
In the past, private channels were utilized and necessary to resolve issues. However, today social technologies, like social networks, ratings & reviews, wikis, online communities, and micro-blogging, have made it easier for individuals to express their opinions publicly. Companies have begun to realize this and some are attempting to leverage these social media platforms to their benefit. Early research by Charlene Li
concludes that the most significant driver of a companies' nascent attempts to employ social technologies successfully has been: having an “open mind-set,” and the ability of leaders to let go of control “at the right time, in the right place, in the right amount.”
To accomplish this, leaders must first come to terms with the fact that they are no longer in control of what people say about them, their company, or their brand(s). Command and control is gone. Leadership now is “a relationship between those who aspire to lead, and those who choose to follow.” Furthermore, proactively “giving up control” creates an environment in which leaders may begin to actually “regain control” by engaging with the populace with whom they have formed a relationship.
How does this work? Using technology, leaders can sufficiently communicate their values and mission to the people at the ends of their organization and beyond, empowering them with the guidance and insight to make more autonomous, better decisions. Li cites the Barack Obama presidential campaign as a key example of this, adding that the Obama Campaign created My.BarackObama.com
(a private social network used for deeper engagement & to raise contributions), and used Facebook and Twitter to spread the message further.
The traditional organizational model is being stressed because:
Innovation has become more important than process control
More businesses are delivering services than manufacturing objects
Skilled, motivated front-liners bristle under strict organizational & execution-only oriented controls when they believe them to be suboptimal
In the wake of this, leaders should seek ways to develop the “kind of new, open, engaged relationships I need to get things done.”
Charlene ends the chapter with questions for the reader, points to her website, www.open-leadership.com
, to share responses with others, and closes by enumerating the new rules of open leadership (these will be reviewed in more detail in future chapters).
The New Rules of Open Leadership
Respect that your customers and employees have power
Share constantly to build trust
Nurture curiosity and humility
Hold openness accountable
There is a new breed of relationship and influence that has become enabled by social media platforms. It’s somewhere between the deep relationship you have with your family & friends and complete strangers. These are the subset of people that are your friends in Facebook, followers on Twitter, or connections on one of the many other social sites that exceed your personal Rule of 150
as discussed in The Tipping Point
. I believe a definition of these extended connections or associates will soon be developed. For now, I’ll call them “The Dunbars”. That said, because social technologies have significantly decreased the cost of communicating with and amongst The Dunbars, the benefits of doing so have increased dramatically. Engagement with The Dunbars is now both feasible and beneficial for many of us.
I also believe this phenomenon will result in flatter organizations, much to Thomas Friedman's
pleasure. CEOs and managers will be able to more effectively communicate with a broader audience directly. Furthermore, the increase of direct access links between people in an organization (e.g., front-line employees or individual customers to a CEO or department head) may create an environment that will begin to stress middle-managers as greater opportunity occurs for the potential of divergent direction to be given by a direct supervisor versus the overall head of an organization or group. But… for an open leader, the appeal and power of being able to streamline direction, communication, and alignment is significant.
Finally, the Barack Obama Campaign definitely set the bar for effective use of social media to achieve a mission. I find it interesting that the campaign employed a CTO (and has done so after assuming the White House). I couldn’t find a previous example of a noted candidate hiring a CTO. Also, I think companies can learn from a key strategic decision the Obama Campaign made. Because the Obama Campaign believed that the McCain Campaign was aware of the core tenets of its strategy (to win Iowa and spend freely in Florida), it decided to be fully open about it. This increased the Obama Campaign's power of execution and better aligned its supporters to the goals and values of the campaign. It engaged The Dunbars and clearly communicated its message via My.BarackObama.com, Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter (as well as other channels). I believe many companies are also facing a similar situation as they ponder the degree of openness they should employ when discussing and deciding company strategies.
That's a wrap for chapter 1. Stay tuned for chapter 2. If you have any thoughts, questions, or feedback, please let me know in the comments section below.
Note: At the time of this blog post, it did not appear that open-leadership.com had launched its audience participation capabilities, so I expect this is something that will occur on May 24th.
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