When I found that Charlene Li of The Altimeter Group had written a new book about leadership and social technology, I contacted her and asked for an early review copy. She responded personally and promptly and I'm glad to say that after reading "Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform The Way You Lead," I recommend it wholeheartedly.
Charlene defines open leadership as "having the confidence and humility to give up the need to be in control while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals" (p. 14). Leaders accomplish this by having an open mind-set - the ability to let go of control "at the right time, in the right place, and in the right amount." (p. 8). And she does not pull her punches, which I love:
The first step is recognizing that you are not in control - your customers, employees, and partners are. If you are among the many executives who long for the "good ol' days" when rules and roles were clear, indulge yourself in that kind of thinking for just a few more minutes - then it's time to get to work. This is a fad that will not fade, but will only grow stronger, with or without you. (p.8)
Open leadership is about new relationships, and new relationships need new guidelines. Charlene suggests the following:
1. Respect that your customers and employees have power.
2. Share constantly to build trust.
3. Nurture curiosity and humility.
4. Hold openness accountable.
5. Forgive failure.
You can see that this is contemporary leadership philosophy, and Charlene readily admits that and acknowledges the sources of her principles. What is new here is how Charlene shows how to accomplish open leadership with the use of new and evolving social technologies like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter.
I wish I had written this book. I believe strongly that leaders and companies that make social media only about marketing are missing a HUGE opportunity to to radically transform their entire value chain. But I am glad that Charlene wrote it, because through her diagnostic exercises, checklists, rich examples, and systematic approach to open leadership, any leader with an open mindset can follow her advice and get results.
There is nothing new under the sun about how to achieve sustainable competitive advantage. You have to be able to learn faster than your competitors and embed this knowledge in new products, services, and operational processes that create something remarkable about what you do and how you do it. What is new are the powerful social technologies available today for leaders to listen, respond, and learn faster and more effectively than any time in our lives.
I firmly believe that if you ignore open leadership, the best you will ever be able to achieve is competitive parity. The land of excellence and growth belongs to companies that leverage these new social technologies to build thriving, enduring community with their employees, customers, and suppliers.
Charlene's book will be available on May 24, 2010. I would encourage you to get a copy, read it, and begin applying her advice in your business ASAP.