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  • Writer's pictureNancy Dering Mock

Wide Open

Updated: Sep 29, 2020

When hearing buzzwords like "empowered" and "collaborative leadership," most people nod knowingly and agree in principle. But few people delve deeper into what these concepts mean or what it actually takes to empower people or to be a collaborative leader. At the core, it requires openness, and respect and trust in others. Let's explore the characteristic of openness and how it pertains to effective leadership.

1. Openness to ideas, opinions, and viewpoints other than their own. Leaders appreciate the value of inviting and truly listening to different perspectives. Simply, this means being more curious than certain, asking questions more and issuing edicts less.

2. Openness to learning. Collaborative leaders understand their own strengths and value the complementary strengths of others. Rather than the stereotypical "know-it-all," open leaders tap into the strengths and skills of others and facilitate the sharing of these strengths and skills with others.

3. Openness to new approaches or those other than their own. Competent and committed people do not always go about things in the same way. Rather than "my way or the highway," open leaders focus more on "how well" than on "how;" more on results than methods. The result is often performance improvement and more learning.

4. Openness to communications methods and styles. How people communicate and preferences for methods is changing. With rapidly advancing technology, four generations in the workforce, remote work, and differing skill levels, it is no wonder a large percentage of organization assessments rank "Communications" as the number one issue. Open leaders are vigilant in seeking new ways to communicate information and keep their team connected. This may mean rapidly embracing new technology and proving the resources and training necessary for team members to stay informed and stay connected.

5. Openness to conventions other than their own. Leaders challenge their assumptions about workplace attire, tattoos, and other individual expressions. Of course, the organization's values and guiding principles are immutable, but open leaders don't let differences in appearance, background, get in the way of coaxing the very best out of every employee.

6. Openness with presence. It used to be referred to as an "open door policy," but a more apt term may be "open leader policy," describing the leader's willingness to engage, collaborate, listen, and learn. Open leaders lean in, ask "what do you think," and listen intently. They are truly present to their team members.

Collaborative and empowering leaders need to be more than open-minded, and way more than broad-minded. They need to be wide open to ideas, learning, methods, styles and opinions other than their own, relying on and respecting the viewpoints, skills, approaches and expressions of others; and in the process, developing themselves and those they lead.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Have you ever worked with a leader who was open to new ideas, learning and approaches? How did he or she demonstrate that openness?

  2. What would an "Open Leader Policy" look like for you? How would you define and demonstrate leadership presence?

  3. From your experience, would you agree that inviting, relying on and respecting the viewpoints of others is developmental for both the leaders and on those they lead? Give examples.

  4. What are the implications for leaders? For you?

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