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 the Best Leaders Energize People Every Day

leaders unlock potential

How the Best Leaders Energize People

If you want to be a great leader, you must be a great communicator. The Inspiration Code: How the Best Leaders Energize People Every Day  explores the link between leadership and communication.

Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach specializing in executive communication. You may have read one of her articles in “Forbes” or encountered her other book, The Power of Presence . Her extensive research and survey into what inspires people was fascinating. I recently asked Kristi about her latest work on inspiration in the workplace.

 

“When we highlight potential, we boost confidence.” -Kristi Hedges

 

4 Factors to Enhance Your Inspirational Effect

Tell me more about the four factors that enhance our inspirational effect, what you call the Inspire Path.

The Inspire Path puts a structure to the research I found that uncovers what communication behaviors inspire others. It’s a guide to increase inspirational impact. While we can’t force someone to be inspired—and if we try to push, it backfires—we can create the conditions that foster inspiration. People are most often inspired through certain types of conversation with others. If we want be more inspiring, we should focus on being:

 

“What we concentrate on gets stronger.” -Kristi Hedges

 

PRESENT: investing our full attention and letting conversations flow

 

PERSONAL: speaking genuinely, listening generously, and acknowledging the potential of those around us

 

PASSIONATE: exhibiting sincere emotion and exuding energy attuned to the situation

 

PURPOSEFUL: helping others find meaning and see their place in the bigger picture

 

Copyright Kristi Hedges, All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

 

“Our choices bring our purpose in sharp relief.” -Kristi Hedges

 

How do you train Type-A, driven, device-obsessed executives to be more present?

The Powerful Implications of Positive, Contagious Emotions

This is a guest post by my friend, author and speaker, Shawn Murphy. Shawn is the CEO & Founder of the leadership blog, Switch & Shift. I’m excited that his book, The Optimistic Workplace is now available.

Be Positive

As a leader, you have the greatest influence on those whom you lead. A good day for you can lift the spirits of your team. Research shows that your positive emotions are contagious. Certainly the opposite is true. Yet, there is greater significance when you spread positive, contagious emotions. That is the focus of this article.

 

“Your presence has a powerful influence on your team.” -Shawn Murphy

 

Distinguished psychology professor Barbara Fredrickson has devoted much of her research to positive, contagious emotions. She defines them as emotions such as joy, love, or inspiration. When these or other positive emotions are present, they expand our thinking and actions to complementary effects. Positive emotions drive related behaviors that inspire others to mimic them when observed. For example, if you are feeling inspired in a brainstorming meeting and you show it, it will likely rub-off on others who will model similar behaviors. Thus the emotion becomes contagious.

 

“Positive anything is better than negative nothing.” –Elbert Hubbard

 

Benefits of Positive, Contagious Emotions

Positive, contagious emotions benefit your team and help drive towards desired organizational outcomes. These emotions help shape the work climate to be optimistic. Individuals thrive because of these two influences on performance.

Higher Team Performance

Simply put, positive emotions make you feel good. And when you feel good you perform at higher levels. It’s easier for you to reach peak performance. When you regularly experience positive emotions, you continually grow toward optimal functioning. A team influenced by positive, contagious emotions performs at higher levels.

Positive SeOptimistic Workplacelf-Identity

When you feel good about yourself and your contributions, you are more likely to experience higher levels of creativity and resiliency. What Fredrickson has learned from her research is that positive emotions have an encouraging influence on a person’s identity and well-being.

Stronger Relationships

Relationships are stronger and healthier where positive, contagious emotions are prevalent. Employees are seen as key partners in the success of the team and ultimately in the organization. Employees want to know that they are valued and not just some number built into the company’s balance sheet.

 

“A team influenced by positive, contagious emotions performs at higher levels.” -Shawn Murphy

 

Implications of Positive, Contagious Emotions

As a leader, you personally benefit by demonstrating actions that evoke positive emotions. The implications listed below have significant influence on your own satisfaction as a leader. The implications also help shape the climate so that workplace optimism can emerge.

Inspire People to Overcome Challenges

How to Create Repeatable Success and Endless Encores

Repeating Success

 

Ever feel frozen in place?

Have you seen something take off and then get consumed with worry about what’s next?

How do we create an encore worthy of that success?

 

Ken Goldstein’s new book, Endless Encores: Repeating Success Through People, Products, and Profits, tackles the difficult topic of creating continued, repeatable success. His various corporate roles make him uniquely suited to share his perspective on success. Currently, he is Chairman & CEO of SHOP.COM and previously he was Executive VP of Disney Online and Publisher of Broderbund.

 

“All success resets expectations for what comes next.” -Ken Goldstein

 

How to Create Repeatable Success

You wrote a fictional story about a topic that seems to haunt many: repeating success. Why did you choose this topic?

I think there are two challenges that weigh heavily on our minds at work: first, how do we achieve success, and second, once we achieve some success, is that the last success we are going to have? In many senses, the second challenge is much more haunting than the first. When we’re initially trying to break through the noise and get noticed, we have nothing to lose, so our leaning toward risk is high and our openness to the unusual is ungated. We are open to helping others, and we welcome their help because together we are stronger. Once we have a reputation of any kind, fear starts creeping into the mix. No one wants to be a one-hit wonder, but often we become our own worst enemy and unintentionally box ourselves in. We worry about our next thing being compared to our last thing. That worry can filter our creativity, our bias to action, even our kindness toward others as competitiveness takes over. None of that negativity helps us win again at all, it just clouds the way forward. That’s why I chose this topic. So many people I know are consumed by it, overwhelmed by it, and sometimes frozen in place. The colleagues I’ve helped in person in a leadership capacity have continued to move forward with the new, and I thought if I could capture that spirit of innovation in a story with real characters, I could inspire others to keep looking forward and only forward.

 

“Leadership is earned and recognized, not granted.” -Ken Goldstein

 

Why We Learn More From Failure

Why is success difficult to repeat? After all, if you did it once, you can follow the same process . . . or not?

Ken GoldsteinHere’s what I have discovered repeatedly: You can almost never recreate a success, but it is absolutely predictable that you can recreate a failure. That’s why we learn more from failure than we do from success. In failure, we learn what not to do again. It didn’t work, so put that on your list of things you don’t need to try again. In success, if we do the same thing again, or even a modest alteration, we will not create the same inventiveness or excitement that we did with the original. Something can only be unique once, and success is usually unique. That’s why it is so hard to repeat success, because no matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, all that is in the past, and you must start from zero. It’s also why I say you’re not really failing if you’re learning, because the learning is what sends you back to try again. When we embrace the empowerment and humility of starting over, releasing defensiveness and facing the blank canvass with a set of trusted colleagues, we have the best shot at repeat success, which is the same shot we had at first success. Accept that and innovation is all you need to worry about (and that’s plenty).

 

“Offer customers more than what they think they want.” -Ken Goldstein

 

Build a Mission That is More than Words

What’s the best way to have a mission that is “more than words”?

When a company’s mission statement is in a binder on the shelf or buried in the company handbook, it’s dead text — it means nothing and empowers no one. Shared values are what drive people to work together and innovate. A set of shared values allows a mission to be more than words, but only if those around us embrace the values with authenticity and conviction. We live in a cynical world where conflicting data and untested opinions are communicated broadly in real time. If we say “our people are our most valuable asset” and then lay off 20% of our staff because of a bad quarter, was that a shared value? If we say, “We cherish integrity here,” and then our CEO resigns for unexplained reasons around a publicly broadcast compensation scandal, what happened to our commitment to integrity? Walk the walk, lead by example, and you can get the people around you to rally to any cause you share, but you must share it as a set of consistent actions (emphasis on “consistent”), not a slogan.

 

“Long-term leaders spend the majority of their thinking about talent.” -Ken Goldstein

 

3 Steps to Building a Winning Team

How to Envision Your Limitless Potential

Tune in to the Power of Blind Ambition

Many of us start a new year with a list of resolutions and aspirations.  Those goals can quickly disappear as we replace goals with excuses.  A regular diet of motivation helps me redouble my efforts, so I regularly look for inspiring people, books, speeches, and songs.

That’s why I was pleased to have the opportunity to speak with Patricia Walsh.  Talk about overcoming obstacles, pursuing dreams, and not letting an excuse derail goals.

At age five, she was blind from a brain tumor.  Later, fighting depression and hopelessness, she made a decision to reclaim her quality of life.  Now, she has written an inspiring book, Blind Ambition: How to Envision Your Limitless Potential and Achieve the Success You Want .  She has a successful career as an entrepreneur, a software engineer, and a professional speaker.  And I almost forgot to mention she is a champion athlete.

Don’t listen to the voice telling you to give up on your goals.  Don’t settle for mediocrity.  Don’t limit your potential.

Instead, tune in to the power of Blind Ambition.

 

“You can never go wrong by lifting someone up.” -Patricia Walsh

 

Shatter Expectations

I’ve interviewed another female Ironman, Chrissie Wellington.  Reading her book was the closest I’ve come to understanding what it takes to compete.  It’s a grueling challenge.  And you’re blind and you did it.  What motivated you to shatter expectations?

I stumbled into shattering: I think my friends and family assume that I set out with a determination to turn the world on its ear from the get go.  Truly the spirit of the initial events was more of a, “What could possibly go wrong?” to which the response was. “Everything could go wrong,” to which I then responded, “Even if everything does go wrong, this won’t kill me.”

My initial motivation was to reclaim my quality of life.  When this all began, I had a smoking habit, was the life of the party, and as a result was overweight and feeling lost in my own skin.  As my dad started struggling with his own health, I realized that my habits and patterns not only emulated his, in many ways they were worse than his.  I started running as an attempt to reclaim my health.  The result after months of trial and error and continuous improvement was not only a betterment of my physical health, but it had become a lifeline for what had been a shattered sense of self.

In completing my first marathon, I proved to myself that I was not and never have been damaged goods.  My sense of ability was through the roof.  When proposed the opportunity to take on ever increasing challenges I jumped at the chances.  After years of marathoning, a friend dared me to do an ironman.  When I took on ironman it was out of a curiosity and a wonder for my own capabilities.  I was in way over my head.  I had never swum or biked.  The amount of help and coaching I needed just to finish was daunting.

Walsh9780071833820It was after completing my first ironman, Lake Placid 2010, when I became the first blind female to have completed an ironman with a female guide, that I saw the opportunity to reclaim expectations.

There is a thriving prejudice of reduced expectations of persons with disability.  I feel it every day.  People are surprised when I am able to order for myself at a restaurant.  People approach my friends and congratulate them on their generosity for taking the blind kid out for an adventure. People do not see me as an accomplished adult.  The challenge for me every day is to fight the impulse to become a defensive person.  When faced with these reduced expectations, my want is to rattle off my resume.  My want is even to make that person feel lower, but what good would come of that?  I know better.  If I were to ever really have that honest reaction, everyone would walk away feeling awful.  I acknowledge my role has to be that of a gentle educator.  After my initial success in ironman, I had the opportunity to race with a hero of mine.  It was then that I saw the gleam of light that I could be a competitive athlete by any standard.

I believed that if I put in the time and effort to be among the top finishers for my age group, then I could offer up an example of appropriate expectations of the blind.  That is to say blind and disabled people are not lesser than, they are equal to, and in some cases even greater than those without disability.  Truly it isn’t about the comparison, it is about the assumption.  The efforts of persons with disability should be taken on their own merit, absent of the expectation of diminished value.

 

“Excuses are a mask for fear and self-doubt.” -Patricia Walsh

 

Finishing my second ironman in 11:40 was groundbreaking for me.  In 10 months I had reduced my own time by three hours.  I had set an example of an athlete with disability who two years into the sport could be ranked among the top 10 finishers for her age group.  I was then recruited to compete at a different distance for the US National team.  My secret hope is to come back to ironman after Paralympics, as I left wanting more.  I know I could be among the top finishers in following my own fuel-fire-blaze hierarchy with the emotionally intrinsic goal of continuing to chip away at the reduced expectations.

 

Limitations and Excuses