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

Open leadership

Written by: on November 21, 2014

It has been a couple of years since I first came to the States and one of the things like is the customer service. Most businesses and organizations value their customers’ opinions and they try to make sure their customers are happy with their services and product. Access to the Internet has made it easy for anyone to get on social media sites and write their comments. Thus, Charlene Li’s book, Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform The Way You Lead, helps today’s leaders understand the culture of the networked world they serve and develop necessary skills to engage with it. According to Li’s analysis leaders are faced with the challenge of giving up control and embracing social technologies. Why is opening up important? The author argues that opening up allows leaders to succeed. It is the transparency and authenticity that can bring significant benefits to an organization. Thus, according Li, the way move forward for today’s leaders is to open up to learn from their employees and customers and engage in dialogue. Unless they engage in dialogue they will not hear what others are saying about their organization, which also potentially will affect their business.

The power of social media is also enhancing the global communication. For instance, in April 2014, when the Ethiopian government imprisoned and killed thousands of Oromo university students and civilians for their peaceful protest againt the expansion of Addis Ababa, which will displace Oromo farmers in the outskirts and suburban areas of the city, it was because of social media that the global society was able to hear their story. The Oromo community in Diasporas utilized social medias to arrange peaceful protest on behalf of our students in Ethiopia. Although there is no freedom to blog about Ethiopia’s oppressive regime, people are still managing to go online and post their stories anonymously.

Serving in this sensitive nature of our ministry, every time we send out our ministry update to partner churches in America we ask them not to share publicly online. While we would like to have more ministry partners, we do not want our ministry information to get in the wrong hands. We realize that having a website where we can share our work will put us at risk rather than benefit our ministry goals. But we have a closed Facebook page where we can share brief ministry updates with our ministry partners. For now this is how it makes sense for us as to be open and engaged with our partners. We will see what is best for us as move forward.

The concept of open leadership is pivotal in ministry context as well. Leaders need to open themselves up to listen to their ministry partners as well as their co-workers’ views. The challenge I noted in my church is the leadership team tends to make decisions that need to involve the whole congregation. This often makes the members grumble and sometimes results in a church split. In order to build healthy relationship within the church leaders need to dialog openly on the issues that matter to all. When mistakes happen it is important to forgive. As Li says, forgiving failure is important, for failure is inevitable. “Things go wrong all the time in relationships, and the healthiest ones move on from them, leaving behind grudges and blame ” (p.15). This often sounds simply in theory but gets difficult in practice. It is important to remember that as long as we are learning and trying new things there is a chance for things to go wrong. And we need leaders who can lift us up when we fail and encourage us to try again.

About the Author

Telile Fikru Badecha

12 responses to “Open leadership”

  1. Telile,

    So correct in what you brought out, that the way to move forward for today’s leaders is to open up and to learn from their employees and customers. In our ever so connected world leaders must engage in dialogue. I can only imagine the challenges you face in the Ethiopian oppressive regime. This is a perfect example of a closed organization bent on keeping control and silencing any detractors. We can see the ever present problems that this closed system has on people. You truly bring out the worst case scenario in the April incident of the imprisoned Oromo students. Such regimes must expend a lot of energy/resources/time to maintain control. I guess the desire for absolute power and control fuel such regimes into a delusion that they can still wield absolute power/control in this day and time. What do you think the Ethiopian regime is most fearful of that would hinder them becoming more open?

    • Richard Volzke says:

      I can’t speak about the Ethiopian regime, but looking at history many oppressive leaders and regimes were afraid of losing power. Desiring power over another individual seems to be a part of our human nature, and is something that mankind has struggled with for all of time. North Korea is a good example – they never want any negative comments to be said or picture to be shown. They fear criticism and loss of control if the truth about their situation should become known. I can’t think of any reason, except that people fear sin will be exposed, to not allow openness. I believe this applies in churches as well. Think about how much has been covered up in churches throughout history to avoid looking bad. If an organization or leadership is not willing to be open, then I must say that I am not likely to trust them.

    • Telile Fikru Badecha says:

      Mitch, thank you for your thoughtful comments and question. The Ethiopian regime has no desire to be open up for dialogue. The leaders have been exploiting the poor, public resource and etc, which will hinder them from becoming open.

  2. John Woodward says:

    Telile, thanks for your insightful post this week. You brought up an important issue that I had not considered from this week’s reading: The need to protect those we work with. This a key concern for so many missionary organizations. I have friends working in the Middle East, Central Asia and in S. Balkan areas that require a great sensitivity to communication, because information about the people they work with might bring harm, and it might shut down their work. Living in the USA, we are used to being able to say whatever we think and post whatever we want, that it is such a struggle for missionaries and aid workers in other countries to try to convince Americans not to they say, post or talk about certain things. They don’t understand the real danger! Here I think is a great example of where we have to be very concerned for “openness.” Where I deal with it is with teams of young Americans working in Romania and taking pictures of our kids in the orphanages. Of course, all the young people want to post their pictures when they get home…but they can’t, as doing so violates child protection and can do real harm to our ability to work in the orphanages. So, I am all for openness….but it is important to know where and when it should be practiced. Thanks, Telile, for broadening my thinking on the book.

    • Telile Fikru Badecha says:

      John, Great point! I love you say “So, I am all for openness….but it is important to know where and when it should be practiced.”
      It is good remind Christians that whatever they do in the States in the name of Christianity will have impact on believers in courtiers where Christianity is the minorities faith. Thank you.

  3. Telile,

    You bring up some very important points here, particularly when you talk about the importance of not always sharing everything with everyone. Some people don’t get this, particularly Americans.

    When I lived in the Middle East we also communicated with our partners. But the reality is that we could not share everything with everyone. Some things were better left unsaid. And if somethings were said, others might have been in danger. Some people always want to know everything, but that is not always the wise thing to do. In these days of open, instant communication, we need to be careful that we don’t share too much. Wisdom must sometimes trump openness. Thanks for sharing this here.

  4. Telile …
    Once again you have enlightened and taught us because of who you are and because of the perspective we need. I think Li would say that is leading with authenticity and humility :).

    You shared with us when it is needful and right to be cautious in what and how we share online utilizing social technologies. Intentionality in this sense reveals that considering the consequences is vital to the ultimate “success” of your mission. You’ve highlighted for us that we should consider “how” — what is the best means to inform and lead others.

    In talking about openness you reminded me that in some ways it is possible in communicating a need or fulfilling an expectation that we can take photos (for instance) and in essence utilize social media to communicate while at the same time detaching ourselves from who we have photographed. Do we hold the human dignity of both those we are communicating to in the same measure of those we are communicating about?

    Thank you for picking up on Li’s work and making it more relevant.

  5. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Hi Carol, thank you very much for your thoughtful comment. You ask a very thought provoking question. I think it is possible to communicate a need of others utilizing social media while at the same time detaching ourselves from them. It is the result of this detachment that often leads people to hold the unbalanced perceptions of the “haves and have-nots” human dignity. This is also where openness and humility about our calling comes in. But it is possible to hold the human dignity of both those we are communicating to in the same measure of those we are communicating about, if we stay close to the people we represent and also have the biblical view of humanity. Blessings!

  6. Michael Badriaki says:

    Telile, great post. Even with the need for openness, you remind us that there are certain cases where the “open leader” must think twice. Not everything can be broadcast and especially in this day and age when that can be taken for granted.

    When we lack moral support in the need to cautious about what one can say, it can be a difficult place to be. There are some people who are eager to make financial gains from public announcements from “ministry testimonies” and that can cause conflict too. Li gives helpful insight and you also put it well when you write, “it is important to remember that as long as we are learning and trying new things there is a chance for things to go wrong. And we need leaders who can lift us up when we fail and encourage us to try again.” Great stuff!

  7. Clint Baldwin says:

    A really thoughtful post about some of the people of Ethiopia and some of your work.
    I appreciate your seeking to navigate the idea of “being open” — asking what that might best look like for you in your situation. I’m glad that Li gave space for this multi-layered approach in her text noting that we don’t do openness for the sake of openness, but must align it with what would constitute “best practices” for the work we are doing.
    The struggle between openness and closed access is doubly accentuated when one is at odds (at varying levels) with another organizational entity that remains adamantly closed.
    Thank you for seeking to choose connectedness in the midst of such difficulties.

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