Leadership Systems - Open Door Policy

An open door policy is a nice value. It only becomes part of a leadership system if it is built into the rules of the system.

Inc Magazine recently republished an article by Gary Vaynerchuk titled: Why My Door is Always Open. According to his LinkedIn page, Gary is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and co-founder of VaynerMedia, a full-service digital agency servicing Fortune 500 clients across the company’s 4 locations. He is also a sought after public speaker, a venture capitalist, 4-time New York Times bestselling author, and an early investor in companies such as Twitter, Tumblr, Venmo and Uber.

In his article, which is really rather good, Gary speaks to the value of the CEO having an open-door policy. As I read the article I was struck with the dichotomy of my last CEO. His personal leadership skills, in many ways was off the charts. He was smart, respectful, engaging, passionate, and visionary. His understanding of leadership as a system was awful. In contrast to Mr. Vasynerchuk, he would arrive in the morning, immediately go into his office, shut the door, pull the internal window blinds and not come out until after lunch. Consequently, all but one of the senior leaders would do the same. As a senior project manager, I knew within days of starting that my time with his firm would short. The unspoken rule was, you don’t bother the CEO until after lunch and he opened his door. His other leaders just followed his lead. Team work and collaboration, two things desperately needed in a consulting business, was non-existent. While the senior leaders had been stable, the rest of the firm was a revolving door of smart people coming and going. When the COO called me after my resignation and ask why, I told her. Her response was why didn’t you say something? Really?

While an open-door policy is a nice touch for a CEO, it only turns into a system if her leaders and managers do the same. It must be built into the rules of the system and not just a value of the CEO. Contrast this to a small regional hospital in Western Washington. This CEO understands leadership as a system and in designing the system, one of the requirements is… all leaders will have an open-door policy. I have never seen an organization with greater team work and collaboration among competing disciplines. it is breath taking.

Link to the Inc article: