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How to Achieve Open Leadership: What You See is What You Get

Openness and transparency have certainly been climbing their way up the list of requirements in today’s world of business, but many seasoned leaders are still unsure of how to navigate the changes they require. At this year’s annual YamJam conference in San Francisco, Altimeter’s Charlene Li explained that such shifts are not ones that naturally happen. “[People are] expecting authenticity and transparency in all the things that we do and yet we are so very far away from that as organizations,” she added.

And so if open leadership doesn’t come naturally (bummer), what exactly will it take to get us there? While many might feel inclined to primarily buttress this goal with technology, Li vehemently urges against that line of thinking: “It’s never about the technologies. When it comes to business and leadership, it’s about the relationships,” she said.

Unsurprisingly then, the real keys to fulfilling these new expectations lie within practices we haven’t traditionally seen on the business front. Moreover, they’re ones we often struggle with in our personal lives as well. Li’s top three:

Courage: It takes a lot of courage to develop strong relationships with the people you lead, mostly because trust requires a mutual exchange of vulnerability.

Sharing: People in strong relationships share things on a regular basis with each other. Li explained that when it comes to leading an organization, this doesn’t translate to sending a mass e-mail once a quarter.

“I would actually posit that we as organizations are really lousy at sharing,” she said. “We often don’t show we’ve got until we’re ready and it’s perfect.” The problem with this best-foot-forward approach is that it doesn’t allow people to see the human side (a.k.a. the flawed side), and without that they can’t connect. Li suggests upping our sharing game in such a way that makes people feel like they can relate. Tell them about the bad right along with the good. This kind of honesty goes viral within an organization and can do wonders for boosting morale.

Mistakes: Don’t be afraid to make them. We talk a lot about being innovative and disrupting and taking risks, but Li notes we never reward the inevitable failures that come with that. “Wee actually need to celebrate failures too because if we enter into these relationships, they will never be perfect.”

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