6 Practices to Help Leaders Grow

leadership growth

Stand Out as Leader

To stand out and make a big impact as a leader, you need to be well-versed in fundamental leadership skills.

Ron Ashkenas and Brook Manville are the authors of a new book from Harvard Business Review Press entitled The HBR Leader’s Handbook: Make an Impact, Inspire Your Organization, and Get to the Next Level.  The book is a back-to-basics primer for both aspiring and experienced leaders, which describes the fundamental leadership practices: Creating a unifying vision, shaping strategy, building a great team, driving for results, innovating for the future, and leading yourself. The authors, both respected leadership experts and consultants, based the book not only on their own experience but also on interviews with over 40 successful leaders and a review of the most enduring themes and seminal articles that have appeared in Harvard Business Review in the past several decades.

 

“A leader’s role is to raise people’s aspirations for what they can become and to release their energies so they will try to get there.” -David Gergen

 

Back to Basics

Why a “back to basics” leadership book now? With so many new leadership books and articles every year, why a new Leader’s Handbook from Harvard Business Review?

Brook:  We wrote this book to give the pendulum of “leadership” a needed push back towards its timeless and pragmatic origins: leadership defined as achieving a significant impact by building an organization of people working toward a common goal.

In recent years, leadership as a discipline has expanded to include not just a lot of gimmicky and ephemeral concepts but also a wide variety of basic self-improvement techniques: how to make checklists to order your day, how to stand before an audience to project authority, how to resist the temptations of too much social media. Such advice can be helpful but can distract rising professionals from the bigger picture of why leadership ultimately matters and what they should aspire to.  We wanted to take leadership back to its historical meaning and show would-be leaders the value of tried and true practices that can help them make a real difference in whatever they are trying to accomplish with other people.

In addition, getting back to the fundamentals, as we write in our book, will heal several myths or misconceptions that have arisen about leadership: That there’s only one “model” of leadership, based on specific traits and behaviors; that leadership is only about one’s self and character, and not building, inspiring, and aligning an organization; that leadership is so different from “management” that leaders don’t have to understand operations and deliver regular results; that leadership no longer matters in a world of networks and less-hierarchical enterprises. Successful leaders, through history and into the most productive organizations today, demonstrate otherwise.

 

“Dreaming big and having the courage to pursue those dreams – despite the risk – is essential for leaders.  But you also need to get others to share your dreams, vision, and purpose.” -Ron Ashkenas, Brook Manville

 

6 Practices to Help Leaders Grow

How Will You Measure Your Life?

Image courtesy of istockphoto/wakila

Clay Christensen is one of the world’s authorities on disruptive innovation.  His book The Innovator’s Dilemma won the Global Business Book Award for the Best Business Book of the Year in 1997, and it went on to be one of the top selling business books for years.  Recently, Professor Christensen teamed up with a former student, James Allworth and the editor of the Harvard Business Review, Karen Dillon to write How Will You Measure Your Life?  It’s about applying business principles to create a better life.

You end your courses—and began this book—with a set of three fundamental “How can I be sure that…” questions.  Can you give us some background of how your thinking led to these three specific questions?

Clay: The questions actually emerged from two of my experiences at Harvard Business School. The first was as a result of being a student here. Every five years, the school hosts reunions and it’s a wonderful opportunity to catch up with old friends. At our first reunion — five years out from graduation — everyone seemed to be so successful, prosperous and happy: the promise of our years at school seemed destined to pay off. But at subsequent reunions, things started to change. Cracks in that promise started to become apparent.

Now, I don’t want to mislead you — many of my classmates have gone on to incredible successes, have happy families and have raised wonderful children. But more of us than I would have hoped seemed to have made choices that haven’t led us to those outcomes. That led to the questions: how can I be sure that I find happiness in my career, find happiness in my relationships, and be sure that I live a life of integrity? Those seemed to be the questions that some of us had either never thought to ask, or had lost track of.

Now, with that as context, the second source was the class that I teach today at the Harvard Business School. Using the business theory that we’ve gone through all semester, I’ve enlisted my students to help answer—both for my benefit, and for theirs—the questions that so many of my classmates seemed to have lost track of.