DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

He Likes It!

Written by: on November 21, 2014

             In 1972 three brothers were given a new cereal to eat for breakfast. The two older brothers were skeptical especially since this cereal was supposed to be better for you (Yuck!).  First one then the other, “I’m not gonna try it, you try it!” Not wanting to be the first one, they turn to Mikey, the little brother hoping for validation because “He hates everything.” Mikey stares at the bowl before him, then picks up his spoon and begins to eat. The brothers are stunned and surprised, “He likes it! Hey, Mikey!”[1] If you remember this Life Cereal commercial you are not alone; the spot ran for twelve years! In a 1999 survey more than 70% responding could still identify the ad with little prompting.[2]


I did not think about the Life Cereal commercial featuring Mikey until I was in the last chapter of Charlene Li’s book Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead. Her premise it that to succeed in today’s changing information and communication environment a leader must be authentic and transparent. That is not really so surprising. What might be surprising and true to the title, she advocates and demonstrates the path to greater transparency and authenticity requires a more open hand. To lead leaders must let go.[3]


She anticipates reluctance and resistance. In what is undoubtedly the finest feature of the book Li provides concise Action Plans at the end of each chapter. She anchors these steps by demonstrating their feasibility in the implementation strategies of several key organizations. Yes, it is a business book, but I found myself challenged and encouraged as I considered translating the values of Open Leadership into my own leadership and those I might hope to lead, whether in the Church or in the classroom.


But rather than advocate open leadership for the sake of the bottom line, Li advocates change is necessary because relationships themselves are changing. “Leadership is about relationships, and because social technologies are changing relationships, leadership also needs to change.”[4] I am part of an online learning environment and I teach in an online learning environment. Both utilize social media to stay in touch and to communicate. I have new twitter followers because someone else on their list follows me and I do the same. When people are frustrated or have questions they seek the wisdom of the crowd to solve or offer suggestions. I reconnected with long ago high school friends and converse in real time on Facebook or Skype with my friends more than 9,000 miles away in Melbourne, Australia. I have experienced what Li recognized four years ago that the dynamics of how we communicate, develop and create relationships is changing. This is strikingly refreshing as well as sobering. It makes me ponder and recognize that quite often we talk about change in terms of efficiency, the bottom line, product production and areas of responsibility, but do we lead with relationships? Is that the motivation?


Open Leadership reminds me that we cannot take relationship motivation for granted. Where is it stated in my values? How is that lived out in the values where I worship or where I work? Li defines “open leadership as having confidence and humility to give up the need to be in control while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals.”[5] Rather than be reactive responders in this new and evolving social platform Li advocates and provides a path to follow as responders and initiators. The hallmark of open leadership is not a lack of controls or even a lack of structure, rather it is an investment in structure and control that permits one to become more open. And just exactly whom are we supposed to be more open toward? The short answer in the business world is your employees and your customer (and potential customers). For a university it would be the students (and for most undergrads, their parents) and the employees – professors (including the adjuncts!) and administrative support staff and administrators, not one at the expense of the other. In the church is would be those that are apart of your fellowship and those on your staff and those in the community.


One strategy is that if we are going to be in relationship with others we begin by getting to know them by creating a socialgraphic profile. I know that sounds rather impersonal and maybe even technical, but it makes sense. The profile is not so much about collecting data for data’s sake (remember the data junkies in Failure of Nerve?).[6] Rather it is a tool to discover and understand where connections are already happening whether “customer” or employee; who has influence and who is developing influence. The potential is there to utilize a socialgraphic to recognize natural connections within your community as well as to see those on the margins.


There is no doubt that the path Li outlines requires an investment of time and energy. In a word I have been reminded to be intentional and purposeful. While most of the book’s focus is framework for social engagement, I find that I am musing over the possibilities and interface not only with my dissertation research but also how I might be more intentional with my online presence. What is my motivation and how might I rightly influence others? I can begin my investing in my relationships.

            [1] Accessed 11/21/14. For your reference the commercial is on YouTube:

[2] Ibid.

[3] Charlene Li, Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010), xi.

[4] Ibid., 163.

            [5] Ibid., 14.

[6] Edwin Friedman, Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Ages of the Quick Fix (New York: Seabury Books, 2007), 95. Chapter Three: “Data Junkyards and Data Junkies: The Fallacy of Expertise.”

About the Author


Carol McLaughlin

Carol walks this DMin journey from her locale in Gig Harbor, WA (USA). She is preparing for pastoral ministry in the Presbyterian Church (PC-USA), as well as teaches in the Online Learning Community programs at GFES. Part of the DMin Leadership & Global Perspectives 4 cohort (dminlgp4) her research and dissertation focus is exploring why baby boomers leave the church and what it means for their faith development. The views expressed here are her own.

9 responses to “He Likes It!”

  1. mm rhbaker275 says:

    It is obvious you enjoyed Li’s book – great post.

    You ask the question, “Do we lead with relationships? Is that the motivation?” Probably the answer is “no,” at least not consciously. That is the focus of “Open Leadership,” understanding the implications of social technology and making the conscious effort to restructure an organization to utilize the inevitable. Of course, I remember “Mikey” and as I recalled the commercial, I wondered if I ever bought Life Cereal? We raised two boys through the eighties and nineties. I could not recall even shopping in those days, so I asked my wife, Carol; “of course!” she exclaimed. Did our boys relate to the “nutritious, delicious” or the fact that Mikey “likes it?” Does it have anything to do with the fact that in their mid-thirties they are still cereal mongers? As consumers, we don’t like to think about that kind of influence on our choices and decisions.

    Although the technology of the late twentieth century was not the social technology we are experiencing today, it was still about creating and building relationships. In this past era, however, it was not open participation, it was about control; an exchange that translated to the bottom-line, as you note. Li does say, “The fundamental rules that have governed how relationships work are being rewritten …” and building open relationships requires rigorous effort; however, it must be “a considered, rigorous approach to strategy and leadership that yields real results” (250). It still sounds like the bottom line to me, just not coming from the top down.

    I don’t want to suggest that I fail to see the need and benefit of being open in our relationships; quite the contrary, my own search for being open has been spurred as I seek to understand the openness and relational nature of God. We often joke that whether its the phone line or the instant message, God is always there and God is always listening. Perhaps the single best take-away (there are many) for me in “Open Leadership” is the “Guideline Checklist” (1850) that Li provides; although Kindle does not allow me to copy and paste, I have taken a snapshot of the guidelines. I want to reflect on how these items might be directives in an open and (rec)conciliatory relationship with God and God’s creation. The list: encouragement, identity, transparency, responsibility, confidentiality, good judgement, tone, voice, quality, and trust-building.

    • Ron…
      I think one of the questions we do have to ask is what kind of relationship do we want to have and what kind of relationship do we have? I think it has to be o.k. to recognize there will be varying “degrees” of relationship. We also have to consider the context of those relationships — where do they occur. The challenge of social technologies is that private conversations that would be held within a more private environment can now be broadcast in a social or public sphere (Joseph Myers, “The Search to Belong.” MaryKate also referred to these spaces in “Make Room for Leadership). It seems we are being invited (and really the right word might be challenged) to understand our motivation along with our purpose. Good thoughts and as always, you bring a vital perspective in our learning together.

  2. mm Liz Linssen says:

    Hi Carol
    A really great and insightful post!
    As you rightly explain, social media has changed the way that business and leadership (of whatever context) is being done. Greater transparency and authenticity in relationships certainly cannot be avoided. However, developing relationships is not as easy as it sounds as I’m sure you’d agree. Some people connect easier than others; some will not want to develop a relationship with their leader; and others will make it downright hard. What is the leader to do then?

    Li makes a great contribution in this whole subject of leadership in our 21st century, but I think she needs to go just a little further. Should every leader do his or her utmost to invest time and energy in every relationship? What safeguards should be put in place to protect the leader if an employee doesn’t cooperate? Any thoughts?

  3. Hi Liz…
    I think Li does make us work and suggests that to be successful (however we define that) we are going to answer why are we doing what we are doing and what the implications mean — what is our end result. I think she does so whilst acknowledging that it can be both for profit (if you are a business), but also set out to develop relationship, in essence care about the opinions and experience of your clientele. Should that look differently for those of us in the Church? I think so, but we still have to look at our values and then consider how we might live those out in the social realm. I don’t know that I have an answer to your question. Perhaps part of the answer lies in recognizing that we might have layers of relationships that we engage with and depending upon who it is and their role or relationship in our lives we will engage with them differently, yet consistently as we are engaging with others from the posture of our values. Does that make sense? What are your thoughts on what we should do?

    You are right there are limitations in Li, but perhaps we have to then draw from our other readings and engagements to draw the path for us. I am an introvert and I am so challenged to put myself out there, yet I know that I am going to have to in my research/dissertation process. What I realize from Li is that I can be intentional and craft how I will do that, I just have to do it! 😉

  4. Michael Badriaki says:

    Great blog Carol! Relationship matter and in a technological age, it is necessary leaders to learn and know how to engage. I think social media is a great sphere for knowledge and information acquisition but can be a challenge when it come to stewarding relationships. You put it well when your write “… for Rather than be reactive responders in this new and evolving social platform Li advocates and provides a path to follow as responders and initiators. The hallmark of open leadership is not a lack of controls or even a lack of structure, rather it is an investment in structure and control that permits one to become more open.”

    The fear of criticism is a factor and therefore having structures and control that permits openness is ideal.

    Thank you

    • Michael…
      You’re right, criticism is a factor, one that comes from different directions. I can be afraid of criticism and therefore not put myself “out there” or fear that my voice is not needed (been there, done that). Then again, criticism can come because our intent is misunderstood. Perhaps part of our initiating and responding would mean that we consider criticism as likely and anticipate how we will create our online voice to speak/communicate what is intended. Wisdom in social technologies would mean we think about criticism as well. Thanks Michael, I needed that reminder. 🙂

  5. mm Julie Dodge says:

    I appreciated your post, Carol. As always, it is thoughtful and reflective. I value how you focus on the relational aspect of leadership and change. It’s not easy – in fact, I wonder how often leaders of churches and organizations consider the impact of their plans and actions on the relationships with their “customers”. I really liked your suggestion to consider your organization’s socialgraphic. It really does make sense – use the tools that your audience uses. And use them well. Over this term I have also grown more conscious of how I manage my social media presence. It’s a focus for my PLDP – It’s not something that I have really been intentional about. I mean, I’m on LinkedIn, but I don’t really use it. I’m on Facebook – and I use that but while I limit what gets posted on my page, and I think about what I post, I haven’t also been intentional about shaping that message. Something to consider…

  6. Julie …
    First response is to say, “I know what you mean!” I too am on LinkedIn but do not post or really engage there. I want to say it is because of time, but really I am not vested there. Ah…

    I am going to begin a pastoral internship in January. I have a feeling that the socialgraphic will become part of that internship. But more importantly it will be enlightening to ask and to reflect on how we want to utilize social technologies – relationships, impact, consequences.

  7. mm Clint Baldwin says:

    Really appreciate your post.
    So much helpful reflection in it.
    I love the parts that are essentially simultaneously about letting-go and jumping-in (as opposed to holding-on and jumping-up per se).
    Just as a quick thought based on the overview of your post and some comments by others. We have psychology’s DSM categorization of MPD. I think it would also be helpful to have a positive categorization perhaps of something like MPO — that is, multiple personality order. Of course, I’m being somewhat tongue-in-cheek with the language, but there is nothing new to noting that we have different sides to our character and showcase different aspects of our character at different times with different people. There are healthy and unhealthy ways of going about this — thus, the above language — but, for instance, we don’t interact in the same way with just met acquaintances as we do with family or with long-term friends. All the nuances about this can be discussed ad infinitum, but suffice it to say, especially considering social media interactivity/connectivity some guidelines for healthy MPO. 🙂

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