Robert A Varley, Senior Consultant to the Secretary-General, United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization and CSCLeader 2013, details why the five interrelated character traits of Open Source Leadership are essential for the success of this generation of young leaders. 

What can I say about Open Source Leadership in just 500 words, and what qualifies me to say anything at all on this platform? I suggest that two profound experiences in my life have given me insights that are worth sharing. Firstly, I have worked for over a decade in global leadership in the field of weather, climate and water – themes that are amongst the most urgent for the 21st century. Secondly, I am a parent/parent-in-law of five millennials and I have observed their early experiences in the world of work with both admiration and dismay.In my four years as CEO of the Met Office, the UK’s national weather and climate agency, my job was to lead, inspire and motivate 2,000 highly skilled professionals working for the protection, prosperity and wellbeing of citizens in the UK and around the world. Applying the five character traits of Open Source Leadership was critical to our success: 

  • Encouraging Interconnectedness between different teams and departments, while building strong and enduring partnerships around the world – enriched by the diversity of geography, culture and context.
  • Being Accessible and welcoming perspectives from everyone, irrespective of age, experience or status. My door was always open and often the newcomers were best placed to bring the fresh thinking we needed to move on from long-established ways.
  • Being Awake to intolerance and discrimination in order to build an inclusive culture where everybody’s contribution is valued. Not only is this right and fair, but it builds a loyalty and respect that helps contribute to organizational excellence and successful partnership.
  • Being Trustworthy and authentic. Building trust is particularly important for leadership through tough times. There were times as a CEO when I had to make painful decisions that deeply affected staff. Doing so from a position of trust and empathy made a huge difference in terms of maintaining goodwill and commitment.
  • Being Quick to adapt to a world of accelerating change. This is a particular challenge for a large organization in the public sector but it starts with having the right mindset, being prepared to delegate and decentralize for agility, encouraging innovation and creativity, and having a no-blame culture when things don’t work out. 

And what about my kids? Now of course I am biased, but I think they are bright, intelligent adults with lots to offer to any worthy employer. However, I have repeatedly been dismayed to hear of their early experiences in work; of managers who don’t inspire, or even seem to care; of organizations that aren’t open to the fresh thinking that new staff bring; of dysfunctional teams, discouraging creativity and so turning early enthusiasm into dissatisfaction and disenchantment.

Open Source Leadership is not rocket science but, despite its obvious benefits, we have a long way to go before the five components are commonplace amongst our leaders.

Listen, learn and act.