Book review: Open Leadership by Charlene Li

This is a long overdue post but time has been flying faster than usual.

I’ve recently finished reading Open Leadership – How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead by Charlene Li. Charlene is founder of the Altimeter Group and also co-author of the bestselling book Groundswell.

Open Leadership combines the conceptual discussion of the topic of openness in leaders and organizations, and the role of social technology in fostering openness, with a practical take on how leaders can improve their open leadership skills. It is written for the “typical” leader: the one that is both curious and skeptic about social tools and their role in business, the one that is cautious about being open but at the same time willing to understand the concept of openness.

But I also found that it is a valuable aid for those that, as myself, have to deal with these leaders and understand their concerns and doubts since the book is written in an honest tone that allows the reader to put herself in other people’s shoes.

Charlene defines open leadership as

“having the confidence and humility to give up the need to be in control while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals”

To make sense of it all she defines ten elements of being open which fall into two broad categories – information sharing and decision making – explaining what being open means in each element and the trade-off between openness and control.

Information sharing:

» Explaining

» Updating

» Conversing

» Open Mic

» Crowdsourcing

» Platforms

Decision making:

» Centralized

» Democratic

» Self-managing

» Distributed

She then goes on to discuss the benefits of being open for both leaders and organizations (both  internally – with the workforce and teams – and with other external stakeholders), the importance of putting in place sandbox covenants, how to orchestrate an open strategy, mind-sets and traits of an open leader, how to nurture open leadership, the importance of failure, and how openness transforms organizations.

The book includes several examples of open leaders and organizations, and each chapter ends with an action plan such as “the open leadership skills assessment” or “creating your social media guidelines”.

All in all, this is a highly recommended book for those involved in defining strategies for both internal social media/enterprise 2.0 initiatives and external social media/community management projects.

Consider buying one for your boss as a Christmas gift. I know I am 🙂


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