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Are You Ready for "Open Leadership"?

A note to all business owners and executives:  COMMAND AND CONTROL COMMUNICATION IS DEAD!

If you ever wanted proof of this, think back to Tony Hayward -- yeah, that guy right there.  How many of you watched in secret agony as the camera's shined on this guy and he fell apart and thought "Glad I'm not YOU!"  A little investment in "Open Leadership" on the part of BP might have saved them more than a little anguish.

What's Open Leadership? And Why Should I Care?

Open Leadership is the name of the next book you should pick up if you're a business owner or executive.  It's written by Charlene Li (who was also co-author of Groundswell - the primary information source about how social media works for business).

Open leadership refers to societies new requirement of its leaders -- to actually share and tell their customers /shareholders/constituencies what's going on.  It doesn't mean that we care about what you're having for breakfast (although that's entertaining), it means we demand to know where you are taking the company.  We want to know how you're solving the problems that you have and we want to know what your vision is for the future.

Doing "Open Leadership" right also means being in touch with your constituencies - and that means looking at market research information on a regular basis and not just as part of some meeting where your market research team comes up and shows graphs and charts.  It means having dialog and discussion about what's important to your customers today and how you will respond to them.


Tony Hsei shows you how it's done.  Just so you know -- this guy is written up in countless business books as "Doing it right".  His company is profitable, his employees are happy and it seems that his customers are happier.  If you'd like your name to be in that sentence -- then this is how it's done.

I also realize that this may NOT be year style.  You can be open -- but talking turkey on your Twitter stream may be a little too much.  No problem.  Check out Paul Rosenfeld - he's the CEO of Fanminder, a text messaging service for small business.

Here he's sharing information about his company and also information he's reading.

What do you want me to do?

  1. Let GO.  I'm asking that you consider the possibility of letting go.  Command and control doesn't work.  You can't control the myriad communication channels out there where you name and brand can appear.

  2. THINK before you type.  Don't make the assumption that social media is TOTALLY spontaneous.  It's a giant DIGITAL BILLBOARD.  It's a camera.  Before you do anything - think about who you want to be in cyber space?  What voice will you have?  Will you be casual like Tony Hsei from Zappos, will you be a little more formal like Paul Rosenfeld?  My advice is to first be yourself, decide how you will communicate, decide on what you will communicate.  Then relax and follow through.

  3. Be Real.  Honest, frequent, consistent communication will build your brand.  Don't be afraid of getting into conversations with your audience.  Be the person that you are at the cocktail party or at your kids' soccer game.  Talk about your management team, talk about great things you see your employees doing.  Talk about a customer problem your team solved.  Make "friends" with your audience.

What's this got to do with market research?

Corporations need to step out of their tower and participate.  Market research is no longer a disconnected communication - it's on going.  Having your leadership team participating in the conversation your customers are having will help you improve your market research and what you will measure.


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