If social media technologies leave you feeling more than just a bit out of control, you are right, says leading social media strategist Charlene Li. “The truth is that you are not in control. So how can you see this as an opportunity instead of a threat?” she asks.

Letting go and sharing control has an upside in this new world of social technologies, says Li, author of the new book Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead.

Open leadership focuses on relationships, says Li, and social technology gives us the tools to understand customers, employees and other stakeholders. It is within these relationships that opportunities lie.

The key for today’s leaders is to find a balance between control and openness. As a place to start, Li’s book offers her top five new rules of open leadership:

  1. Respect that your customers and employees have power. Once you accept this as true, you can begin to have a real, more equal relationship with them. Without this mindset, you will continue to think of them as replaceable resources and treat them as such.
  2. Share constantly to build trust. At the core of any successful relationship is trust. Trust is typically formed when people do what they say they will do. But in today’s increasingly virtual, engaged environments, trust also comes from the daily patter of conversations. The repeated successful interchange of people sharing their thoughts, activities and concerns results in relationship. New technologies like blogs, social networks and Twitter remove the cost of sharing, making it easy to form these new relationships.
  3. Nurture curiosity and humility. Sharing can quickly turn into messaging if all of the outbound information isn’t offered in the spirit of give-and-take. Expressing curiosity about what someone is doing and why something is important to that person keeps sharing grounded and focused on what other people want to hear, balanced with what you want to say. The natural outgrowth of curiosity is humility, which gives you the intellectual integrity to acknowledge that you still have a lot to learn, and also to admit when you are wrong.
  4. Hold openness accountable. In relationships, accountability is a two-way street — it makes clear the expectations in the relationship, as well as the consequences if they are not met. So if your product causes someone problems, what’s the first thing you should do? Apologize and figure out how to resolve the problem. Likewise, if you give someone the ability to comment on your site and they misuse it, they should understand that you will deny them future access.
  5. Forgive failure. The corollary to accountability is forgiveness. Things go wrong all the time in relationships, and the healthiest ones move on from them, leaving behind grudges and blame. This is not to say that failure is accepted but rather that it is acknowledged and understood.

Learn more about Charlene Li’s book and find tools and resources at www.open-leadership.com.

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