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

Gender Diversity: The New Balanced Scorecard

G. Shawn Hunter is the author of OUT THINK: How Innovation Leaders Drive Exceptional Outcomesas well as Vice President and Executive Producer for Skillsoft’s leadership video-learning products.

 

“People who are right most of the time are people who change their minds often.”
– Jeff Bezos

 

In his wonderful book, Stumbling on Happiness, Harvard researcher Daniel Gilbert points out that often our best bet for making decisions we will both enjoy and benefit from is to ask our peers who have made similar decisions.  Gilbert’s advice before embarking on an important decision is to ask someone whom we trust, who has also made the decision we are contemplating, and follow their advice.  And as Gilbert points out, once we learn their point of view on the matter, we often refuse that advice on the grounds that our situation is different.  We reject their advice claiming, “But I’m unique! How could they possibly know what’s best for me?”

 

Research conclusion: The inability to accept outside advice and insight increases with power.

 

More recent research concludes that this inability to accept outside advice and insight only increases with power.  The more power and resources controlled by an individual, the more confident they tend to be in their decision-making and the less they tend to listen and be influenced by outside opinions and points of view.  However, in their study women were often an exception.

In two phases of the study, women tended to be more open to outside points of view regardless of their position of power within the organization.  In their study entitled “The detrimental effects of power on confidence, advice taking, and accuracy,” Kelly See and her colleagues discovered that women more often reported less certainty in their decisions than men and solicited the advice and opinions of their colleagues more.  Most interestingly, because women more often solicited the opinion and advice of their colleagues, they were viewed by their peers as more confident leaders.

So while they may have lacked confidence in their decisions, women were regarded as more confident and effective leaders precisely because they asked for advice from their peers.