Thursday, PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) is hosting author Charlene Li in their Forum series.  She’s presenting Open leadership: How social technology can transform the way you lead (PARC forums are generally free and open to the public, info here).  Charlene is the best selling author of the 2010 book Open Leadership and co-author ofGroundswell (2008). I’ve just started Open Leadership, but I’m very excited about the first chapter: “Why Giving Up Control Is Inevitable.”  I’ve been meaning to write a post entitled ““Let it Go” and “Get Over It” -- Why, when not said by your 13 year old kid, these are great ideas,” but Charlene seems to have done it for me.  My main take-away:

..new technologies allow us to let go of control and still be in command, because better, cheaper communication tools give us the ability to be intimately familiar with what is happening with both customers and employees.  The result of these new relationships is open leadership, which I define as: having the confidence and humility to give up the need to be in control while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals

She has (positive) examples from Best Buy, Dell, Cisco, P&G, the State Bank of India, and the U.S. Department of State.  This gives me hope.  If, as she describes, “making the elephant dance” is possible, then I am hopeful for my students and for our economies. Where I expect a full reading of the book will help is in identifying the key levers or touch points for opening leadership.  For example, Tracy Allison Altman’s recent guest post Getting Beyond Pseudo-Transparency: The Role of Evidence in Participation and Performance describes some levers that make modern organizational transparency work.  Tracy closed with:

People + Connectedness + Evidence = Transparent Participation. Without evidence, people can participate in conversations about what really is working, or is likely to work, for their organization. They can come up with theories, make forecasts, estimate risks, and generate new ideas. But eventually, they’ll need some evidence to prove all that up.

Charlene seems to be saying (remember, I haven’t finished the book) that social technologies (e.g., Facebook, blogging, Twitter, enterprise collaborative spaces) give employees and leadership enough insight into what is going on that they can quit monitoring and worry about supporting the business as it moves ahead. What I’m not clear on is how to develop this kind of vision.  I mean vision in two ways: dream with direction, and ability to discern what’s going on.  I think I have the first kind given my excitement about the growth of transparency in organizations today.  What I don’t know is how to create a general system for discerning organizational reality from actions within social technologies.  Any thoughts on how to phrase that in a question for Charlene? Or, better yet, join me at the Forum. -- Hank Chesbrough will be speaking at the Aug 26 PARC Forum.