Book Review Charlene Li’s New Book: Open Leadership

A few weeks ago, I was surprised when I looked in our mail box. I had received an Advance Copy of Charlene Li’s new book titled “Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead“. Charlene sent a tweet a while back asking anyone interested in receiving the book to submit their details. I sent off my details and didn’t think I would hear anything back, so it was a pleasant surprise.

With that I almost feel bad that it has taken me 3 weeks to read her book. It took this long mainly because it has been hard to fit in some quality reading time for myself with work, the kids, volunteering, etc….. I am happy to report I have finished her book and wanted to run through my initial thoughts with you.

Li_OpenLeadership_3d_thumb1.jpgI first came across Charlene Li after reading her book “Groundswell” a few years ago, her latest book “Open Leadership” is a follow on from Groundswell and to me it seems like a natural progression from the question “Ok the business landscape is changing, what do we do now?” For me these two books have a different writing style to them. Groundswell from memory spoke about broad social media concepts and adoption and alerted us to some of the changes taking place in the SM landscape. Open Leadership seems to be focussed on taking those broad concepts and finding ways to implement them into your environment. That is breaking broad concepts down into individual action items that can be measured and analysed. As the business world changes Leaders must change their approach and let go of control to gain more control.

One of the things I love reading about is seeing real life examples of how people and organisations are making these things happen. In this book Charlene has collected some great collateral and case studies from companies such as Cisco, Best Buy, The Red Cross and The State Bank of India (as a side-note, I wish now that I submitted my input for the Leaders I work with here at Oracle – there are some great examples here of people who empower their staff). As society becomes more adept at using social media it is inevitable that Leaders must become open with their employees, clients and partners.

From the book some of the key points I took away are (I actually took away a lot more from this book, this is just an overview) :

1) Organisations should encourage risk taking. Without being a “hacker”, how can we improve ourselves, our processes, our business, etc… The old saying you only fail by not trying applies here. If Leaders create a culture where people are afraid to stick their neck out – how will you innovate?

2) Leaders need to lead by example – if you want to promote an open and transparent business, a Leader needs to exemplify the traits they would like to see out of their employees.

3) The definition of a Leader is changing, open leadership is about being a catalyst to change that uses networks to spread a vision as opposed to traditional leadership that is viewed as a role.

4) There is a cultural and business shift taking place. Information is more wide-spread and is being disseminated faster than any other time in the past. Leaders who are open and transparent will thrive in this new business environment.

5) Leadership is not defined by a title – it is defined by a person’s actions. Also anyone can be a Leader or has Leadership potential in them- it is a matter of drawing that out of people.

I found this book useful and I also found myself looking at my own actions and the actions of others around me (including my management) to see how open and transparent I am in my work. For me I am glad I read this book as it validated my own thoughts of the changes we are seeing take place. This book has certainly given me some new ideas and helped me push my own boundaries of what I can do. The book has a number of action plans at the end of some of the chapters such as “Conducting you Openness Audit” that I think have helped me take thoughts and ideas and turn them into concrete action items. I have included a link to the introduction of the book here if anyone wants to have a read of it.

If anyone else has read this book, it would be great to hear your thoughts/comments/review. Leave your comments below.

This article was originally posted on David Talamelli’s Blog – David’s Journal on Tap

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