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.

Links for Sept 13 2009

Lego: How much does profit matter? from Hoover’s Business Insight Zone by Tim Walker

Hire for Trustingness, Train for Trustworthiness from Trust Matters blog by Charles H. Green

How do you create a culture that is not afraid to fail (or be more receptive to social media?) from Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media by Beth Kanter

The Cable News-ification of IT News and Analysis from CIOpedia by Scott Booher

The Dichotomy Between Social Networks and Education from PR 2.0 by Brian Solis

Crowdsourced or Elite Unit Innovation? from I’m Not Actually a Geek by Hutch Carpenter

Innovation success or culture – which comes first? from Innovate on Purpose by Jeffrey Phillips

Non-linearity of technology adoption from by Chris Dixon

Keep Or Save? from The Effective CIO by Chuck Musciano

Social Media as the CIO’s Trojan Horse from CIO Dashboard by Chris Curran

9 Ways Marketing Weasels Will Try to Manipulate You from Coding Horror by Jeff Atwood

Saying “no” to corporate fossilization from The BrandBuilder Blog by Olivier Blanchard

It’s Less About Theory and More About Thinking from Get Me Jamie Notter by Jamie

What to do once your firm’s social media policy is written from FreshNetworks Blog by Matt Rhodes

Re-designing Your Business Culture from Logic+Emotion by David Armano

Simple rules to balance structure and flexibility from Don Sull’s Blog by Don Sull

Spectacular Failures from The Guild CIO by Stephen Gillett

Wrong customer, or, the perils of dog food marketing from Groundswell by Josh Bernoff

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This book,  with the full title of “Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies” is a must read for anyone trying to figure out how to benefit from the social networking phenomenon.

This book is perfect for anyone who doesn’t understand ‘social media‘…and for those that think they do! It  provides case-based examples of how organizations have used social media to engage their users.  The examples provided in the book are quite good and describe how organizations have used social media to embrace their community.

Before you go out and buy the book on my recommendation, let me point out a couple of important points:

  • This book does not tell you how to implement a social network.
  • This book will not solve your social media problems.  It will help you with understanding your problems and give you some ideas for solutions.

What this book will do is help you understand that there isn’t any one answer to the question of ‘how to embrace social media”.  The book provides many examples of social media experiments…some successful and some failures.

The book provides a ton of information about demographics and age group differences and how age normally affects social media usage.  Excellent information that everyone should review.

For me, the most interesting section of the book is the one in which the authors state very clearly that any social media project (or really any project for that matter) can be made more successful if the following four steps are followed:

  • First, look at your People.
  • Second, Set at your Objectives.
  • Third, Review your Strategy.
  • Fourth, look at Technology.

This approach, which the authors abbreviated as POST, is no different than any proper strategic planning initiative…at least in my book. When any organization starts to look at new things like social media, they must first look at their people and their customers.  Is this new strategy something that can be achieved easily? Is it viable?

The second step is to Set your Objectives for the project.  What are you trying to achieve with this social media project (or any project)?  The third step is to review your overall strategy as well as determine your ‘go to market’ strategy.  The last step (which most organizations perform first), is to select the technology platform that you will use to carry out your strategy.  I can’t count how many times I’ve seen this process performed backwards with technology selected before any real thought was put into the strategy, objectives and people.  Many of those projects failed miserably because of that.

The book is well reviewed…and is well deserving of those reviews.  Its an excellent book for anyone interested in this topic.  Highly recommended.

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