Monday, November 15, 2010

Embracing openness to enhance collaboration

We're all agreed that this is a new day in the world of information exchange. It's been said time and again that the impact of the digital revolution on civilization is akin to the advent of the printing press. Absolutely, undisputedly, transformational. But it's not enough just to recognize that truism. We need to absorb it, dissect it, exploit it and embody it. Institutions, organizations, associations, corporations and non-profits can no longer afford to ignore the growing influence of social media as a market influencer. The spin masters are being out-spun in the cloud.

Recently, in many different settings, I've been thinking about this. I was recently invited to attend a workshop at ODDA to help me identify my leadership style as one of either abundance or scarcity. While I couldn't attend I'm pretty sure I know which side of the divide I fall on, and which side I prefer. In other settings I've heard colleagues lamenting over the fact that 'we' can no longer manage (or even monitor) information flow as we have in the past. For the most part, these are my contemporaries, professionals who remember a more orderly and heirarchical communication pattern in the world. And, as anyone who knows my control freak tendencies will suspect, I feel their pain. But we simply don't have the luxury of nostalgia when it comes to leading our organizations. If we ignore the ubiquity of social media in stubborn fealty to the way things were when we were cutting our teeth we'll quickly become obsolete and irrelevant. Instead, we can move forward only if we embrace new media and become active participants.

I'm currently reading Charlene Li's Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, in which she defines open leadership as follows: having the confidence and humility to give up the need to be in control while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals.

Ms. Li suggests five sound rules to guide our behavior as open leaders.
  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.
She recognizes that there are challenges in adopting an open leadership strategy, but I suspect as I continue reading I'll learn that the benefits outweigh the costs. Stay tuned!

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