ATD Blog

Don't Fear Open Leadership

Thursday, May 2, 2013

There are a lot of fools in our organizations today. 

Why is employee engagement at deplorable levels? Why do we see senior leaders failing to adopt social collaborative technologies inside (or outside) the organization? Why do we see authoritative, autocratic, fear mongering and controlling leaders still operating in vast numbers? Why do we see information and knowledge hoarding? 

It’s because of people who act like FOOLs—who have a Fear Of Open Leadership. 

In my book Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization I define open leadership as follows: “the act of engaging others to influence and execute a coordinated and harmonious conclusion.” There are some key words and phrases in my definition that FOOL’s don’t understand.

  • Engaging others. Why would a FOOL like me do that? The easier thing to do is to command others and to tell others specifically what to do and by when. I don’t have time to spare, I’m important you know.
  • Influence. That takes too long, and it requires me to slow down my assault on my next career move up the ladder. Forget influencing; I’m going to control everything about this employee, team and any objectives that are currently in flight. I’m a lot like Tupperware; I control and prevent the contents from escaping.
  • Coordinated. You mean, like, me and the team have to be on the same page? We have to coordinate our ideas, opportunities and actions before we get anything done? I’d rather stick my tongue on frozen monkey bars. That’s what I think of coordinating.
  • Harmonious. I’m a FOOL; I can’t even spell harmonious let alone define it for you. 

If you’re in an organization replete with FOOL’s — or worse — you have a direct leader who is a FOOL, you may want to rethink your current role and place of work. 
If you are a FOOL, drop me a line. I’d be happy to chat about the book with you—and get you operating in a flat, open manner. 



This post is adapted from Dan Pontefract’s blog. Learn more about him and his latest book, Flat Army, here.


About the Author

Dan Pontefract is chief envisioner at TELUS, a Canadian telecommunications company, where he heads the Transformation Office, a future-of-work consulting group that helps organizations enhance their corporate cultures and collaboration practices. Previously as head of learning and collaboration at TELUS, Dan introduced a new leadership framework—called the TELUS Leadership Philosophy—that dramatically helped to increase the company’s employee engagement to record levels of nearly 90 percent. He is the author of The Purpose Effect: Building Meaning in Yourself, Your Role and Your Organization as well as Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization. A renowned speaker, Dan has presented at multiple TED events and also writes for Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Psychology Today and the Huffington Post. Dan and his wife, Denise, have three young children (aka goats) and live in Victoria, Canada. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Victoria. More information is at

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