The 10 Elements of Open Leadership

In 2010, Charlene Li wrote Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform The Way You Lead. She endeavors to help leaders improve efficiency, communication, and decision making for their organizations by wisely and strategically tapping into social technology. While organizations naturally fight to control elements, Li argues for being rigorous when it comes to openness, transparency, and authenticity while understanding the risk involved.

The premise of the book is:

...leaders must let go to succeed.
— Charlene Li

Information is required to keep the organization moving forward. We live in an information-saturated world and the pace accelerates each day. How do we maximize information sharing inside an organization?

  1. Explaining: Creating Buy-In
    • Inform people about a decision, direction, or strategy with the goal of getting employees, associates, volunteers, and others to buy into the idea, so that everyone is working toward the same goal.
  2. Updating: Capturing Knowledge and Actions
    • Leverage publishing platforms that team members can access quickly and frequently. The culture of the organization influences what technologies should be employed.
  3. Conversing: Improving Operations
    • Ensure mutual conversation channels are open between the customer and you, the organization. Monitor comments and respond quickly and appropriately. This is also applicable to internal comments made by team members.
  4. Open Mic: Encouraging Participation
    • Encourage environments where everyone feels and believes they can come forward and participate with no preconditions. 
  5. Crowdsourcing: Solving a Specific Problem Together
    • Direct effort and energy toward expanding sources of new ideas and gathering fresh thinking to create or improve a new service. This is also helpful to strategically address any potential area of frustration.
  6. Platforms: Setting Standards and Sharing Data
    • Identify platforms that allow clarity for interactions, and open access for valuable data that is of interest and benefit to team members and customers.
If you want to involve more people into the process, they have to have the right information on which to base their decisions.
— Charlene Li

 As we share information openly, there must be an effective way to make decisions. What are four major types of decision making in organizations? 

  1. Centralized
    • This approach includes a small number of people focusing on high strategic decisions. The advantage of this type of decision making is that it can be decisive, quick, and effective...if the leader is trusted. The disadvantage of this type of decision making is that it feels like command control, where team members perceive that are being dictated to and have to obey.
  2. Democratic
    • This approach includes a limited set of choices put forward to a group and voting is used to make the decision. The advantage of this type of decision making is team members feel a great sense of ownership. The disadvantages of this type of decision making is the daunting task of reaching out to a larger number of people and the challenges involved with complex decisions containing nuances.
  3. Consensus
    • This approach includes every person involved. The advantage of this type of decision making is everyone has tremendous buy-in. The disadvantage of this type of decision making is the amount of time and effort required to corral everyone into agreement.
  4. Distributed
    • This approach pushes the decision away from the center to where information and knowledge to make decisions actually reside, closer to the customer. The advantage of this type of decision making is the ability to break down complex tasks as well as speed and ability. The disadvantage of this type of decision making is the amount of discipline and planning required that most organizations do not believe they can achieve.
...have the confidence and humility to give up the need to be in control while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals.
— Charlene Li