Open Leadership – Book review

Open Leadership by Charlene LiI grabbed a copy of Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead (affiliate link) by Charlene Li for my business trip last week.  Gotta have something to read on the plane you know.

I enjoyed this book.  Not only is the subject matter interesting, but the way in which Li presents the material is fresh, interesting and engaging.

The main premise of the book is that in order for organizations to use social tools and technology, they need to be able to operate in a more open manner.

I do have to say that when I first saw the title “Open Leadership”, I was perplexed. I thought that Li had somehow decided to move away from her area of experience and expertise in the social space and move into the realm of ‘leadership’ books.  The subtitle helped assuage that fear though and after opening the book and starting to read, I realized that the title made perfect sense.

In this book, Li declares open leadership to be a vital factor in whether an organization succeeds using social media.     She argues that by becoming more open, organizations will be able to build real / honest relationships with their employees, clients and vendors.

This is a good thing.  Building long-lasting and valuable relationships with people (whether they are clients or employees) is the entire reason for moving into the social space.  Having a culture of openness within an organization helps tremendously with building those relationships.

Li argues that the old ‘command and control’ structure that most organizations have used (and still use) will not work in this more open environment.  While this argument is made fairly successfully, there are many places in the book where Li tries to assuage those who still prefer the top-down command approach with her ‘controlled’ open-ness approach. When I first ran across the idea of a controlled ‘open’ environment as Li discusses, I was a little disturbed, but after thinking about it and reading more, I realized that Li wasn’t really advocating for continuing the command and control approach; she’s arguing for processes that help shape the open environment.  As long-time readers of this blog know, I’m all for processes as long as they don’t hinder the ability of the business to be ‘human’.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in social media, social technologies, customer service and marketing.  There are a lot of really great stories & case studies that highlight how organizations are using social media to get closer to their customers and the problems those customers are having.

If you liked Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies (affiliate link), a great book in its own right, you’ll like this book too.


Finished this book up earlier this week and I have to say, I’m a bit disappointed.  I feel as though a book by the man who defined the word ‘crowdsourcing’ should give me more than just anecdotes about how companies have used crowdsourcing.

I’m not disappointed in the content of the book…it was good. As was the writing. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I felt like something was missing.  The book is interesting and a good read…but left me looking for more.

That said, there are some excellent stories of companies using crowdsourcing. There is some excellent ideas is this book, but very little actionable information. Well…except for the last chapter. The last chapter provides some ‘meat’ to the ideas behind crowdsourcing.

Before someone jumps on me for giving this book a bad review…I’m not doing that. I think people should pick up this book and read it, if only for the stories of iStockPhoto and other companies that have used crowdsourcing models.

After reading this book (or before it), take a look at Groundswell.  Groundswell is the book that I’ve been measuring all other books of the genre against.  Comparing Groundswell with Crowdsourcing might be wrong since they do cover different areas…but the comparison is there….and Groundswell comes up on top.

Perhaps Groundswell is higher on my list because it provides more of an analytical look at the social media aspects of business while Crowdsourcing takes a anecdotal approach.

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