Over the last twelve months, I have read several books on leadership as part of the requirement for my D.Min program and outside of it. Each one has made some unique contribution to the understanding of my personal leadership traits and aided me significantly in my present leadership responsibilities. Open Leadership: How Social Technology can Transform the Way You Lead by Charlene Li has proved to be quite timely considerably resourceful especially as the development group of my organization is exploring the possibilities with social technology and media for growth. Two things that jumped at me at the very outset have convinced me that:
- Integration of social technology is no longer an option and that we have to do it with a greater sense of urgency
- Integration of social technology for growth and transformation cannot be done in isolation. This process would also involve a thorough review of other aspects of the organization including the posture and position of its leaders.
One of the examples that Charlene Li sites in explaining how open leadership results in transformation is the success story of the State Bank of India, the second largest bank in the world. That, I thought was quite unusual in the Indian culture; it came as a fresh breath of air. This is a country dominated by a closed mindset and controlling leadership is the norm; a place where strict hierarchy prevails. For example, it can be pointed out that this culture that has lost much of its richness because knowledge related to arts and medicine have been secretly preserved and passed down generationally and therefore forgotten and lost. Not only the business world, but also Christian organizations are smothered as a result of such a frame of mind. I write this not in judgment but as one who is influenced by such a way of thinking and outlook, and as one realizing the need to change.
Here’s a gist of my take on much that Charlene Li has to offer:
- In a world that is being increasingly influenced by the power of social technology open leadership is the inevitable pathway to transformation and growth. Undoubtedly effective use of this tool with openness along with established controls can open avenues to greater levels of efficiency, effective communication and right decision making.
- Open leadership does not necessarily mean the loss of control. On the other hand when addressed suitably it sets the tone for better control for leadership to provide correct administration and direction. The push back to open leadership usually rises from the fear of loss of control, since traditionally, it has been taught and believed that success is an outcome of absolute control. The new world order and the new open environment now demands greater flexibility and a style of leadership that is more open. I take to heart what Li explains, that openness requires more striving rather than less. However, when implemented with clarity of its implications, it will enhance the performance of both the leader and the organization.
- Authenticity and transparency are the two main pillars on which open leadership rests. These are the two essential elements that are absolutely indispensible for leadership in the present time. Levels of organizational success and transformation rise and fall in proportion to the levels of authenticity and transparency of leadership. Li offers a brilliant analysis on both of these elements as they relate to leadership explaining authenticity that is relevant and controlled and that “transparency is not all about show and tell everything.” (Li 2010, 190-193)
The last in a series of resourceful action plans that is contained in Li’s book is one that is helpful in ‘starting the transformation’ (Li 2010, 267). I am seeking to adapt and implement a four of these following plans and squarely face a few serious questions.
Lead by example. An organization is in many ways is a reflection of its leadership. The change will have to begin within and through me. What should within me that others can emulate?
Encourage risk taking; reward risks taken. What is holding the organization from efficiency and growth? How can I get out of my comfort zone and lead and encourage others to do the same?
Start small to win big. A vision will remain a dream unless it is acted upon. I realize that enormous and drastic changes cannot be implemented all at once. A large vision of change and transformation will have to be realized one step at a time; one day at a time. What will those small initial steps look like? Where do I begin?
Be patient. Change happens over a period of time. What would it take to be patient yet plan strategically for the future?
Li, Charlene. Open Leadership: How social Technology Can Transform The Way You Lead. San Fransisco, CA: Josey-Bass, 2010.