I really liked the author’s opening statement about the purpose of her book, “Open Leadership is about how leaders must let go to succeed.” (Kindle Loc 179). I particularly liked her stress on being strategic about how a leader, in conjunction with others, will put together a plan that identifies the objectives and boundaries of openness. Li makes a strong case for the inevitable openness due to technological advance and then she eases the concerns of leadership by assisting them to manage and plan an openness strategy.
The ten elements of openness and the four arenas of decision making are good practical input. The author emphasized the need to develop a strategy that is consistent with the organization’s objectives and then to identify the objectives of the openness strategy itself. I found this to be encouraging. She made it clear that she is not making a case for a ‘tell all’ kind of openness. Though she develops a very structured argument for developing an openness strategy she then balances that structure with a strong emphasis on the leadership’s relationships and the culture of relationships being leveraged to realize the benefits of openness.
The best two parts of the book for me were her comments on attitude and failure. Li writes about two attitudes or mind sets: people and success. She writes, “In my research and interviews, there are two mind-sets that define and determine how open you are as a leader. The first is your view of people—in general, are you optimistic or pessimistic about people’s intentions? (Kindle Loc. 2575) The second mind-set is your view of your successes: as either coming primarily from your efforts as an individual or stemming from the efforts of a team.” (Kindle Loc. 2583). These two comments are profound because of their simplicity, concreteness, and directness. She is right on! Of course, if she were to be writing from a Christian world view she would have certainly grounded her views in a Biblical anthropological perspective and the plurality of leadership view. She finishes her chapter with a refreshing bit on humility, a subject not always given space in the context of leadership. She writes, “in the context of open leadership, humility plays a special role—it allows open leaders to accept that their views on something may need to shift because of what their curious explorations expose.” (Kindle Loc. 2651). I believe the vulnerability that is the product of humility is very valuable to leadership and facilitates ownership and team attitude.
The chapter on failure was my favorite. I agree with her that being able to forgive failure and also building trust by admitting failure are both powerful leadership traits. I thought about this in terms of disciple making. I remember teaching about discipleship and talking about how Jesus treated Peter’s failure. One of the students asked me, “can you tell us about one of your failures and how you learned from that experience.” I was not prepared for the question. But, I took my time, trusting God that he would prompt me, and he did. I then shared about something I did when I was in my first pastorate. I made a policy decision about parking without thinking much about it. At the next board meeting one of the elders asked my about it and the rationale for the policy. I really did not have any rationale! The elders all talked about alternative ways to handle the parking problem and none of them were like my way! I soon realized they were giving me ample opportunity to repent! I did! Soon we were all laughing about my stupid policy! It was hard at first and then funny. And I learned an important lesson. Never make a policy quickly, and never make it alone!
It is not good to hide one’s failure. You will not learn from it and it will only pull you down in the long run.
I enjoyed Li’s book.