Finding the Keys to the Corner Office

By James Lewis, Senior Director, Research, Korn Ferry Institute.  Originally published February 13, 2017 on Korn Ferry Institute. 

It matters in wars, in most sports and, to some extent, in games of chance. But does it really take courage to get into the upper echelons of a company?

Slowly but surely, science is finding ways to measure the traits and skills that tend to succeed in corporate hallways, and it’s getting more exact by the day. In fact, based on executive responses from Korn Ferry’s Four Dimensions of Leadership Assessment (KF4D) tests, it’s possible to rank the skills in two ways: those more common among C-suite types than midlevel managers, and those in more successful or engaged top executives. In other words, a guide to getting into the corner office—and staying there.

Looking at these traits by industry, it turns out fortune does indeed favor the bold, with courage the top trait in the financial services sector, and the second highest in professional business services. It’s also in the top five of at least three other major fields. But a bit of advice for C-suite executives: tuck that brashness away once you’ve made it to the top. Managing ambiguity, instilling trust, planning, persuading—these are the top traits for highly engaged versus low-engaged C-suite types.

Of course, no guide is perfect, and few people can pull off a personality makeover. The takeaway: Try. “It’s not easy for someone who doesn’t innately possess specific competencies to start exhibiting them,” says Stu Crandell, senior vice president, Korn Ferry Institute. “But proper development and practice can help.”

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New Podcast with Talent10x: Why Leadership is More Important Than Ever

By Frank Kalman; originally posted on Talent Economy on December 6, 2017. 

Managing Editor of Frank Kalman interviews Kevin Cashman, senior client partner at executive recruiting firm Korn Ferry and author of the book “Leadership from the Inside Out.”  The two talk about how leadership has evolved in recent years as well as why the skill has become more important in business than ever before.

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On Transformative Leadership: Step Back to Lead Forward

Sponsors Play Key Role in Advancing Women to CEO Level

By Kathy Gurchiek, originally posted on SHRM.org (Society for Human Resource Management) on November 29, 2017. 

Women who are chief executive officers typically did not see themselves in that role until a supervisor, mentor or sponsor urged them to seek the position.

That is among the key findings of Women CEOs Speak, a new report from the Korn Ferry Institute based on extensive interviews with 57 current and former female chief executives in the U.S. and psychometric assessments with two-thirds of the study participants.

Korn Ferry conducted the study to learn what qualities drive the women who make up 6.4 percent of U.S. CEOs. It conducted its research from February to July 2017 with 38 current and 19 former CEOs. Among participants, 23 are or were at Fortune 500 companies, 18 are or were at Fortune 1000 companies, and 16 are or were at privately held companies.

The findings point to the importance of sponsors and mentors in preparing women for leadership positions.

Coaching Mastery: The Art and Practice of Developing Others

Guest Post by Kevin Cashman, originally posted on JulieWinkleGiulioni.com on November 29, 2017. 

I’ve been a fan of Kevin Cashman since first reading The Pause Principle nearly five years ago and have followed his work since. Kevin is a leadership luminary and Korn Ferry’s Global Leader of CEO & Executive Development. His most recent effort Leadership from the Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life, Third Edition, is an exploration of eight powerful ‘mastery areas’ that will support leaders at all levels of the organization. I’m delighted host this guest post from Kevin!

Leadership is more than a job. It is a sacred calling with sacred responsibility. That calling is best honored when a leader sets the highest example of personal and professional behavior and then enlists others to take this challenging path as well. To accomplish both these tasks nothing is more vital than coaching. Effective coaching to bring out the strengths and talents of all the people in the group or organization, serves a dual role. It is a generous contribution to each individual’s growth and fulfillment. At the same time, it is one of the most practical strategies for maximizing the effectiveness and success of the group. The more capable and fully developed each individual in your group, the stronger the group.

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Resilience is a Dynamic Process

By Kevin Cashman; originally posted on Thrive Global on November 27, 2017. 

Developing resilience is not a static, rigid process; it is a type of centered fluidity that lets us go in any direction with ease and agility. Being resilient means we can recover our balance even in the midst of action. Separating our career, personal, family, emotional, and spiritual lives into distinct pieces and then trying to balance the parts on a scale is impossible. Managing the entire dynamic is the key. We need to identify the dynamics that run through all the pieces and then influence our resilience at that level.

Mastery of Resilience is about practicing inner and outer behaviors that keep us grounded and centered so we can deal with all the dynamics outside. As we build more resilience, we can do more with ease. Actually, when we are resilient, we can shoulder more weight with less effort, because we are strong at our very core. We have a strong foundation to handle unforeseen crises, instead of the anxiety and constant fear that one more unexpected problem will take us down. Finding ways to build that resilient foundation from the inside out is the key to Resilience Mastery.

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3 Simple Questions to Help You Stand in Your Own Power

By Christina DesMarais; originally posted on Inc.com on November 25, 2017. 

Stress is a subjective thing. If two people are stressed the same way, one may collapse and the other may thrive on the challenge. So, if you want to be someone who’s strong and resilient, you need to be intentional with your thoughts and how you process what’s happening. That’s according to Kevin Cashman, author of Leadership from the Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life. Here are his words on three simple questions to help you handle stress with dignity.

1. What can I control in this situation?
When managing stress, control is best applied in our self-management versus trying to manage others.  This involves deeper awareness of our responses to stress, especially to any reactive behaviors that don’t improve the situation (or that actually make things worse). You can’t control circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them. Taking charge of our well-being practices–fitness, self-care, sleep, diet, and meditation practices to build resilience is an important aspect of maintaining self-management during stress. When it comes to stress, it is best to control oneself to influence others.

2.  What can I do to influence this situation?
There is a difference between control and influence. You can’t control the circumstances or people surrounding a stressful situation, but you can influence them. Influence is the language of emotional intelligence.  It converts stressful, potentially volatile situations into opportunities for growth and collective aspiration. However, to be effective and not controlling, your influence must be both authentic and highly relevant and important to others. Take Jim, a crusty “old-school” executive, who was extremely bright and, for the most part, got exceptional results. But when stress was high and he was responsible for navigating the team through the chaos, he “bored holes” right through people. During coaching we discovered that he didn’t mean to have such a negative impact on people. He just didn’t know any other way. He was reacting as a string of role models around him had. It turns out that, despite his behavior, he was a thoughtful, caring, and character-driven person. He just needed to find congruence between who he was on the inside with  the results-oriented, intelligent leader he was on the outside. Once he started living the authentic change, he and his team were more effective.

3.  What do I have to accept here?
If control and influence are not generating the impact we hoped for, then we have to step back to discern and accept something that may be within or outside of ourselves. For most professionals this is the most challenging stress reliever because it goes counter to our ambitious action-orientation. When we sometimes admit that investing additional energy, time and other resources will not create an acceptable return, it frees us up to use all those resources to create new value-creating visions.

Distress is usually the by-product of wasting energy by trying to control things we can only influence or accept, or accepting things we could influence or control. Take action on what you can control or influence, and more clearly face what you have to accept.

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Leading with Inspiration

Originally published to Korn Ferry Institute on September 24, 2017.  

In his book, “Leadership from the Inside Out: Becoming a Leader in Life,” Senior Client Partner Kevin Cashman writes about how you have to grow yourself as a person in order to grow yourself as a leader. In this excerpt, Cashman explains how to use stories to inspire action. 

Stories elevate the mind and the heart to go beyond what is, to mobilize us and others to reach new possibilities. Annette Simmons, group process consultant, understood this dynamic when she wrote, “People do not want information. They are up to their eyeballs in information. They want faith—faith in you, your goals, your success, in the story you tell.” Science has demonstrated that stories, especially stories that sustain our attention with a narrative arc and some tension, have the unique force to move us intellectually and emotionally at the same time.

In “Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling,” Harvard Business Review, scientist Paul Zak explains that his lab discovered more than a decade ago that the neurochemical oxytocin is necessary for humans to feel safe. Zak says, “It does this by enhancing a sense of empathy.” Our brain produces more of it each time we experience kindness and trust.

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Do You Have Leadership Character Or Coping Character?

By Kevin Cashman, originally printed in BOSS Magazine, November 2017 issue. 

Leadership styles are abundant and there subtle differences between a great leader and a toxic one. There is also a balance that must be constantly maintained between a myriad of variables and personalities. Leading from a place of adventure rather than a place of fear has been the differentiator for many successful companies. Leadership character defines the bold leader and works to set an example of culture and beliefs.

Leadership character works to transform and open up possibilities and potential. When we are leading from character, we exude qualities of authenticity, courage, purpose, openness, trust, congruence, compassion, and service. We have the ability to transform circumstances, open up possibilities, and create lasting value for ourselves and for others. The character-driven leader tends to emphasize service over self.

Are You Simply Coping?
Coping protects us and helps us get through challenging circumstances. In this sense, it has value, and if used sparingly and appropriately, will serve very specific needs. Coping works like a muscle. We need to use it at times, but if we overuse it, the muscle will collapse.

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How to be Open Without Shutting People Down

Openness is so important to leadership that maybe we should stop calling people “leaders” and rename the most effective ones “openers.” Leaders open up or shut down opportunities in direct proportion to how open or shut down they are to themselves and to others.

We worked with a senior executive a while ago who sincerely believed in openness. What he didn’t realize was that his way of being direct and frank with people was actually shutting them down. He believed in openness and authenticity, but his approach was creating the opposite effect. It was a total mystery to him. He even rationalized it by saying that other people in his organization just weren’t as open. What was missing was openness to himself. He could be open and direct when it came to driving people to results or expressing criticism, but he could not be open about his fears, limitations, inadequacies, or vulnerabilities. As a result, his embodiment of “openness” was very limited.

Once he gained the inner strength and confidence to be more open about his real concerns and feelings, it came as a great surprise to him how other people opened up to him. He told me, “It was startling to me that people opened up and supported me as I opened up and shared my vulnerabilities. I built my career by being invulnerable. I was very open about the work, but very fearful about revealing myself. I didn’t understand that I was distancing people in the process. I now understand that more openness in the organization begins with me.”

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