Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Are you open to change?

Written by: on November 3, 2016

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Way, leadership, isolated.



Are you open to change?  Isn’t that always the question when there is a decision to become better?   To become different?   To get more education?  Or you take a new job.  Change is something that is difficult for most people but this books is a great guide or a great guard rail to follow through the current change that faces business and organisational leaders.


Changing from a guarded closed leadership style to an open or open source style of leadership is quite a jump.  What used to just be talked about privately is now discussed openly, even about strategy and growth plan.   Where issues that come up that would have been handled and settled privately are now part of the conversation to become a better organization and set up is quite intriguing.  Charlene Li does a masterful job of dissecting the worries and concerns that leaders have to work through.  This is a review of the book Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, written by Charlene Li (2010)


The open leader’s dilemma is one of the balancing letting go with being in command.  This problem goes all the way back to the very start of the information age, when the printing press came into being it allowed people to share information at a scale for the first time (12) This development brought about an organization structure called command and control. With centralised hierarchies that organized even the simplest or complex organization with a precise and measurable system.  Changing from this is where our society is at the current time.   The issue that come up is can this new way of organization work?

So Charlene Li came up with these 5 ground rules for this new way of leading.

  • Respect that your customers and employees have power
  • Share constantly to build trust
  • Nurture curiosity and humility
  • Hold opens accountable
  • Forgive failure.

These 5 simple guard rails for change are incredibly concise, clear and filled with communication.   Open is not a free for all but it does feel like there is great freedom within it but there still have to be a structure to make the whole thing work.


Language once again comes to the table, in this style of leadership there is a fundamental problem: we lack a basic framework and vocabulary on which we can base discussions and decisions around openness because there are so many different ways to be open. (17)  Most new ideas do not have the proper language established to help direct the change.  This might mean redefining words so that everyone who is within an organisation understands what is meant and what is expected.


One of the major issues within this open structure is confidence.   Confidence, as defined by Li, is having the faith that people to whom you pass the power will act responsibly. (18)   Her official definition of open leadership is more detailed:  Having the confidence and humility to give up the need to be in control, while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals.  All of this takes trust, that who you entrusted things to must be able to do that task on their own.   When there is a decision to embrace this new open style of leadership, here is the crux of the matter: you aren’t giving up control, you are shifting it to some else in whom you have confidence.   See how that works.  Taking words that are common but then reshaping them within the guard rails of the direction that you are leading and going.  Clarity is what this is called.


The second thing that is discussed is the importance of information, “information is the lubricant of any organization.”   How to build great organisations takes communication and relationships.  The only way to trust someone enough to be open with them is to get to the level of relationship that builds and nurtures trust.  On the back side of that Facebook’s organization gives these guard rails, “Guys, we want to be able to share everything with you, but if you are not going to treat it with respect, then you are putting that privilege at risk.”  That just gave definition to how openness of information is to be treated.

Are you prepared to personally do this? 

One more thing that stood out was the challenges given on how I would personally handle this thought process and definition change.   One of her questions was framed like this:  “If the open strategy you developed requires that you and your organization’s leadership be more open in your sharing or decision making, how prepared are you personally to do this?”  (185)  How are you going to manage your pessimism about the outcomes?  Expand and widen your circle of trust.  (185)


The issue of changing from “the way you have always done it” to a “new way of doing it” is not easy.   It requires choices.  Sometimes it requires pre choice choices that involves your emotions, your background and your style.   Making the decision before you are faced with the decisions or information.   What will you do as a leader?   Can you make change?  It goes against some generations DNA to make changes like this while the younger generation this is how they live life.  Can there be a balance between the two and can there be a language that brings it all together for progress?   The author has built a brilliant case and many case studies where this is a reality not just a dream.  This can happen but the take away is that this takes work, effort, awareness and above all trust/ faith.   If your organization is built on a foundation of mistrust and dishonesty it will not work.  It will implode.

So can you do this?   Are you open to change?  Being in the same role for a long time, it is easy to get settled into doing things a certain way.  I believe it is time to scrap things that might even be successful and look to the future of your organization.   Am I building something that is going forward or resting comfortably.  That is the challenge that I see in this book.  Can I do this?   The truth is mistakes will be made and you will feel lonely but that is where being open brings other people into your circle to help you grow. (269)     Come one you CAN do this!! Be open to change.


Charlene Li, Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead. San Francisco: Jossey-B 2010



About the Author


Kevin Norwood

My name is Kevin Norwood and I have been in youth ministry for the past 34 years. On February 14th, 1994, 27 years ago, we moved to Owasso OK and wow what a ride. My wife, Ann, is an RN and specializes in Clinical Documentation working from home. Maci is a my 21 year old daughter and she loves and shows horses. Her horse's name is Charlie. She is currently working with animals and loves to go on trail rides with her horse. London is my 10 year old son and he keeps me young. He absolutely loves life!! Golfing, baseball and Hawaii is his latest adventures. He skied for the first time in Colorado this year. I have started a coaching business for pastors at www.kevinnorwood.com and it is exciting the doors that God is opening. I earned my Doctorate in Leadership and Global Perspectives from George Fox on Feb 10, 2018.

16 responses to “Are you open to change?”

  1. Garfield Harvey says:

    Great perspective. You stated that “If your organization is built on a foundation of mistrust and dishonesty,” then there will be challenges embracing the openness. Let’s assume that this was the case, would you suggest that the organization would be a “doom and gloom?” I ask this question from a Christian perspective because we are supposed to be built on a Trusting Founding so if we’re making adjustments, this could be chaotic for that church.


    • Kevin Norwood says:


      I think that truly is the issue that I see. Churches can get “poisoned” by not following Christ’s principles. That is my point. Most of the time when there is a church “plant” or “split” it has to do with this issue. Chaos can happen and often does when Christ’s principles are laid aside. Have you seen this?

      Jesus led with an openness that was receive and it also incited his death. All among “church” people.


  2. Thanks Kevin. How have you seen Li’s perspective doing youth ministry? Do you think teens are mature enough to fully participate in “open leadership?”

    • Kevin Norwood says:

      This is what I have been investing my life into for the past 25 years. I believe teenagers can be trusted to handle this assignment and to get in their “10,000 hours” according to Gladwell. This is truly how I have sent so many students into full time ministry. So yes I believe this can work by experiencing this.


  3. Marc Andresen says:


    How do you use/take advantage of/leverage social media in youth ministry? Does your answer relate at all to the five bullet points of Li’s ground rules?

    (My practical reason for asking the question is that I’m talking with the leaders of my artifact host – Cornerstone School of Ministry – as to how we can better use social media.)

    Another possible question: How has the advent of social media forced you to change how you do youth ministry?

    • Kevin Norwood says:

      We use all of the platforms of social media. We are currently using Group Me as a great leadership communication tool. We use instagram for promotion for students. We use Facebook as the platform for parents. We have experimented with vine, periscope and snap chat. The amount of information and the right information on each platform is what you have to figure out.

      We follow lots of people with our youth group pages and it lets us interact with them. We use it in service to drive our games and to get even more followers. We will play games at the mall when we travel to get more and more followers. This is their format of communication so we have to figure it out.

      We ask them to always post their pictures or life events on our walls and our sights. They love to do that and it gives even greater access to them.

      Hope that helps


      • Marc Andresen says:

        Kevin – sounds like you have or need a full time staff person just to handle the media. Makes me tired just thinking about it.

        • Kevin Norwood says:

          When you lead with open leadership….. I am not the one doing that. I have students that I trust to make that happen. They are given freedom but they are also given guardrails or guidelines to stay within.

          The live this stuff so it is not a stretch for them to do this.


  4. Claire Appiah says:

    Thanks for your insights. I like your enthusiasm and confidence in moving out of a rut and propelling your organization forward to even greater heights and successes through work, trust, and faith. Are you able to anticipate at this stage, some of the challenges or oppositions that the youth you lead or their parents might present or not be comfortable with in a new openness?

  5. Aaron Cole says:


    Great blog! I really enjoyed your info graphic at the top on leadership, did you make that? When it comes to change as a leader, how do you keep yourself flexible?


    • Kevin Norwood says:

      I belong to a creative graphics group that created that nice graphic. How do I stay flexible. I surround myself with teenagers and young 20 somethings that work with me. I then ask them tons of questions and listen to their responses so I can gain knowledge. Going to school lunches is probably the greatest place to learn to be flexible.


  6. Phil Goldsberry says:

    This is one of your greatest posts. You took us down the informational highway and gave us mega information….in a controlled environment and from a trusted advisor.

    You have navigated a few “sandboxes” in ministry. If “information is the lubricant of an organization”, WHO made the decision about “what” was disseminated? Was it collectively arrived at?

    You had mentioned the Sr. Pastor handled it well. How far was his reach to gather info?


  7. Kevin Norwood says:


    The senior pastor has the final say on how things are handled and what is communicated but one of the things that we have discovered is that trying to “cover up” things is always a very difficult thing. Being open with correct information and timely information is a win. Even when it is very difficult information. We have private conversations that discuss these issues and how to have thought through message.

    Staying somewhere for a long time you have to determine is you are going to do temporary fixes or ones that may be painful but lead to you being here long term. Some of the most difficult issues have help our church become a redeeming church for others and for ministers.


  8. Jason Kennedy says:


    Great blog. How do you strike the balance in ministry between being open and “closed?”


    • Kevin Norwood says:


      I believe there are things that you have to discuss on a private basis but that information that is moving your organisation forward should be shared openly. Timing is always a part of launching new things but talking about it to get everybody on board is crucial.

      When you are dealing with issues that has to stay closed until there is a moment to make it open. Clear Concise and Comprehensive is the best on those moments. Facts and what is being done is vitally important.

      None of this is easy.


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