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

Not Everything on the Internet is True

Written by: on November 4, 2016

In Charlene Li’s work, Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, she describes a business and leadership world in which openness is the new key to success.  Her book is divided into two parts: what is openness and how does a companies and leaders achieve openness.  For her, she does not just think it is a theory, but rather an imperative in today’s culture.  The reason for her case is the boom of social sites in this technological age.  She states:

Not only is the number of people going online growing, but the time they spend and the kind of things they do online are both also multiplying.  According to the, 1.7 billion people globally are active on the internet.  Penetration ranges from 6.8 percent in Africa and 19.4 percent in Asia to 74.2 percent in North America….Adoption (of social media) has been quick: in September 2006 only 32 percent of all active internet users around the world had watched a video clip online; by March 2009 it had grown 83 percent (p. 5).


In other words, companies and leaders are forced to engage because everything is public knowledge in today’s world and news travels fast.  Li goes on to explain how business practices are changing to deal with this new landscape and companies are learning how to be open with a variety of issues.  From business practices, employee’s salaries, and future endeavors, companies are embracing this new model.



In this new booming world of openness, there are some pitfalls.  For instance, champions of openness (Google and Facebook) have become under ire of German Chancellor Angela Merkel for refusing to release their privately developed algorithms. RT, an internet news site explains:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel launched a broadside at internet media giants, accusing them of “narrowing perspective,” and demanding they disclose their privately-developed algorithms. Merkel previously blamed social media for anti-immigrant sentiment and the rise of the far right.

“The algorithms must be made public, so that one can inform oneself as an interested citizen on questions like: what influences my behavior on the internet and that of others?” said Merkel during a media conference in Berlin on Tuesday.

“These algorithms, when they are not transparent, can lead to a distortion of our perception, they narrow our breadth of information.”

Google uses an algorithm to decide which search results are first shown to a user, while Facebook arranges the order of the news feed, and decides to include certain posts from a user’s liked pages and friends, at the expense of others. Both sites also promote links to news articles, often based on a user’s own media interests (

I bolded the last lines to make my point.  While millennial companies want to embrace openness, I have to wonder if this is a gimmick, a sham, or an illusion.  I truly appreciated Li’s book and I agree with a great deal of it, and I plan to use some concepts to let people be engaged more.  I have also given away a lot of power in order to increase “buy-in.”  These are core concepts that I believe in deeply.  However, I also believe that this book is a product of Millennial dreamers and their worldview.  Deeply engrained in their mindset is this belief that if the world would share more, be more inclusive, and everyone would get a trophy, then the world would be better and there ultimately be peace.  This is a delusion that devalues leadership.


Li’s book was written in 2010 in the midst of the euphoria of Barack Obama’s first term.  The world felt like it was on the brink of change that would usher in a great peaceful revolution. There was a great deal of promise about openness, hope and change.  In 2016 however, we are about to elect one of the most secretive presidential candidates in our history (Trump will not release his taxes and Hillary is deleting emails by the thousands).  I both agree and disagree with Li that our culture is becoming more and more open.  I agree that it is open because of technology, but the skeptic in me just says that leaders are learning to give a false appearance of openness.  Again, I appreciated some principles in Li’s book, but I struggled with the basic premise, and I am just being open about my view on this book.

About the Author


Jason Kennedy

I am a pastor of a thriving church in Grapevine, Texas. With two little girls (5,8), and a wife that is a medical doctor (family practice), life is non-stop.

11 responses to “Not Everything on the Internet is True”

  1. Pablo Morales says:

    Thank you for being open about your view on the book (:

    I get what you are pointing out. However, I am not sure that the author means that openness is about making all information accessible. In fact, in pages 193-194 she explains what transparency really means (a hint is found in the subtitle “Transparency is not about show-and-tell everything). It seems that open leadership is much more about an attitude of leadership characterized by being a good learner and listener, rather than thinking that the leader is the only enlightened one. She explains that open leadership is not about feel good or community or kumbaya, but about having the discipline to build the structure to accomplish the goals of the organization (

    In addition to your dislikes, what helpful insight did you get from the book?


    • Jason Kennedy says:

      I did like the heart behind it. I am dealing with issues here at my church where leadership was very closed. I have opened the process up. I think what struck me about this is that we do not have an open society, just the appearance of one. We have two very secretive candidates for president. Facebook and Google now are subtly pushing privacy….etc.

      This is why I was so negative. My favorite takeaway is information sharing. People are down on what they are not up on. So, I do my best to give information away.


      • Pablo Morales says:

        Jason, when I started working in this church I had a similar experience with the leadership transition. I opened up the process more and shared more information with the ministry partners. As a result, people have an increased sense of ownership of the vision as well as an increased trust. You are in the right direction. Keep it up!


  2. mm Marc Andresen says:


    I really appreciate your critique of alleged openness. I think your comments are spot on.

    Like “open mindedness” being a myth (if you have an opinion about anything, your mind is somewhat closed), I think the openness about which she writes is also a myth. Unless a person is 100% open about everything in their life or business, the openness is selective and, therefore, not fully honest with the real danger of being manipulative.

    As a pastor, what are your thoughts about where you draw the line in terms of how “open” you are with your congregation. (I used to tell my congregation that I was in an accountability group who knew my issues in terms of temptation, but I didn’t tell them which women I found the most attractive.)

    • Jason Kennedy says:

      Great question. I think openness is a good theory but not always practical. While as a spiritual leader, you know you are not perfect and your people know you are not perfect, yet they also do not want to know every struggle. So for instance, my people are ok if I admit that I struggle just like them. However, they would not want to hear the gory details. It is a fine line. You have to give people faith to follow.

  3. Kevin Norwood says:

    Do you think Jesus led with open leadership? That has been my question all the way through the book. I believe I come away with the answer yes to that question because he entrusted the whole gospel message to just a few. His secretive side was to speak things that those who were closed off couldn’t understand but to engage with the common man on a very honest and truthful nature. Any thoughts on that side of this leadership equation?

    Great critical thinking blog by the way.


    • Jason Kennedy says:

      I would say Jesus was open and not open. He would reveal the true meaning of the parables to only a few (which is open to an extent).

      I think Jesus was selective in his openness which I think is smart leadership.


  4. mm Phil Goldsberry says:


    Everything is NOT true on the internet? You crushed me!

    My take away from Li is that the excessive amount of information is forcing “openness” and it is up to us to determine “visibility” (her word).

    What do you think is the balance point between your thoughts and Li?


    • Jason Kennedy says:

      I think she is right. What I say from the pulpit is immediately tweeted, so I have to be measured with my words.

      I think Li’s theories are good. What got me thinking opposite had to do with an article I read several weeks ago (and I wish I could find it). The article basically said that Google and Facebook want people to learn to code in order to create on the internet. To me, this seemed to signal something. If they want to restrict (which make no mistake this is what they are doing), then maybe they do not see this openness as such a great idea.

      Here is the balance: Not every leadership style in the past is bad. Closed systems seem to work remarkably well….see China, US Military, Fortune 500 companies in the boom after WW2…

      Secondly, not everything new is good. Just because Facebook, Google, Sysco etc. are doing it does not make it a productive model.

      I am pretty skeptical of this millennial “kumabya, everybody shares” culture.

      I am resistant to the things in her book because it seems like we are pandering to a crowd that got a trophy for participating.

      Both closed and open systems have to be used, but one is not better than the other.

  5. Wow Jason. Way to be open about Open Leadership. You make me think, who or what is a person or platform that is open and not fake? I don’t know of anyone, even pastors, who are 100% authentic, real, open, etc.
    In your family or church setting, what is a way a millenial could voice their concerns or frustrations?

    • Jason Kennedy says:

      My door is always open. In other words on Sundays, I linger in the foyer so people can express their opinions. I am present within the organization. Not only that, I am a part of our young marrieds small group and I run our college small group. This way I stay in touch with that generation.

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