My TED Talk: Leading in the Digital Era


I crossed an item off my bucket list when I gave a TED Talk at TED@IBM on Sept. 23rd. The event was part of the new TED Institute, which partners with companies to create TED-curated events.

The title of my talk was “Giving Up Control: Leading in the Digital Era”. One key data point from Gallup that continues to astound me is that worldwide only 13% of people are engaged in their work. It’s higher in the US, standing at 30% but that’s still terrible!

I believe that a big reason for this is that we don’t give enough autonomy to, and respect the growing agency of our employees, especially for the Millennials who crave purpose and meaning in their work. The hierarchies that exist in our organizations were designed for a bygone era where efficiency and scale were paramount. But today, speed, innovation, and creativity are the sources of competitive advantage.

Companies have been responding, deploying collaboration platforms and enterprise social networks to connect people throughout the organization. Shrinking the distance between previously siloed departments, or between executives and the front lines sounds great — unless you’re a middle manager.

The biggest problem leaders face in the digital era is that power and influence are being decoupled from titles and organizational structure. So how can you be an effective leader? Here are the three things that organizations can do:

  1. Create a Culture of Sharing. Instead of hoarding information to be powerful, leaders have to become facilitators who accelerate the sharing of information across a networked organization.
  2. Encourage the Practice of “Followership”. The size and quality of your network, not your title, determines how much power and influence you have, and thus, how much you can get done. If employees could build their “followership” across the organization and even outside the organization, then even if their titles or jobs changed, they could still be highly effective. This creates tremendous security that allows these managers to make tough decisions that might otherwise jeopardize their livelihood.
  3. Ensure Networks are being used to Make Meaningful Decisions. People are smart — they won’t devote time to engaging unless they know it’s going to make a difference. The biggest mistake I’ve seen organizations do when trying to transition into the digital era is to use these new tools to create the equivalent of a digital water cooler — talking rather than getting work done. No wonder they don’t last! Get leaders to pay attention, make key decisions on these networks and people will come.

What each of these has in common is the need to give up control. In the talk, I shared the journey I’m going through as the parent of teenagers, as they push for greater autonomy and trust to make their own decisions. In our work, if we truly want to have an engaged workforce, then we’re going to have to lead differently, and establish a new kind of relationship and trust that’s created and deepened with these digital tools.

I’ve embedded the slides and script of my talk below. In a few weeks, the video of my talk will be available and I’ll embed that here as well. I hope you find these materials helpful in your journey to become a leader in the digital era.

Leadership Lessons, with Charlene Li and Ken Blanchard, co-author of “One Minute Manager”

Ken Blanchard I’m very excited to announce Altimeter’s next webinar with special guest, Ken Blanchard (@kenblanchard), co-author of the “The One Minute Manager.” Like many people, I have a well-worn copy of the book on my shelf and it’s a reminder to constantly connect, share, and invest in relationships. This is all the more true today, with the many opportunities that new technologies provide us to do this not only easily but also at scale.

Tapping Ken’s deep experience in leadership, we’ll discuss the timeless lessons of leadership, and also what has changed. We’ll also look at what people as individuals need to do differently today in order to be more effective.

But most of all, bring your best questions as there will be plenty of time to ask questions. Don’t lose this chance to meet and talk with Ken Blanchard!

Please register below, and help us by forwarding this message to interested peers and colleagues.

Webinar: Leadership Lessons: The Power of Relationships in the Facebook Era, with Ken Blanchard & Charlene Li

Register for this webinar at:

Date: Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Time: 10:00 AM – 11 AM PDT

Description: Join Ken Blanchard and Charlene Li for a conversation about how to apply the timeless lessons of leadership during a time when organizations are being transformed by social technologies. Ken, the co-author of “The One Minute Manager,” brings 30+ years as a renowned leadership expert, respected consultant, author, and keynoter.

Together, Ken and Charlene will discuss how the simple truths of leadership still hold true, even during this age of social media. That’s because both hold relationships at the center of their leadership and business philosophies. Specific topics include:

  • How do you unleash the power and creativity of people inside an organization?
  • How do you honor the contributions of your founders and long-time employees even as your organization grows and changes?
  • How do you bring out the best in others?
  • How can you successfully use social technologies to achieve these goals, while remaining true to how you are as a leader and as an organization?

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear Ken Blanchard and Charlene Li share timeless wisdom about human relationships, even as technology amplifies the speed and volume of interactions. Learn from two experts about how to keep relationships at the center of your leadership efforts.

“Making The Case For Open Leadership” Webinar slides & recording now available

I conducted the first of four Webinars on the ideas around “Open Leadership” and am making available the slides as well as a video recording. This Webinar laid out the reasons why open leadership is inevitable and required because of the adoption of social technologies. I also define the 10 elements of openness and provide some information on how you can conduct an “openness audit”.

Upcoming Open Leadership Webinars:

Developing And Measuring Open Leadership Strategies
Friday, May 7th, 10am PDT
– What are the elements of an open strategy?
– How do you measure openness?
– What metrics should organizations use to measure the value of openness?


Finding and Supporting Your Open Leaders
Friday, May 14, 2010 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM PDT
– What are the characteristics of open leaders?
– How do you identify open leaders?
– What can and should organizations do to support open leadership?
– What are some examples of open leaders?

How Open Leaders Embrace & Recover From Failure
Friday, May 21, 2010 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM PDT
– How do open leaders structure and manage openness with policies?
– Why is embracing failure so important to open leadership?
– How do open leaders deal with failure?

Above: Download the slides from slideshare and use as you see fit.

Making The Case For Open Leadership from Altimeter Group on Vimeo.
Above: Listen to the recording, including the presentation and attendees Q&A

[Originally posted at]