Leadership from the Inside Out: Eight Pathways to Mastery

What does mastery of leadership mean to you? To many people it is mastery of something: mastery of the skill to be a dynamic influencer; mastery of strategic planning and visioning; mastery of consistent achievements and results.  Instead of being an ongoing, internal growth process, mastery is usually seen as mastery of something outside of ourselves. When you think about it, it’s no wonder our ideas about mastery and leadership tend to be externalized. Our training, development, and educational systems focus on learning about things, not the nature of things. We learn what to think, now how to think.  We learn what to do, now how to be.  We learn what to achieve, not how to achieve. We focus on what and rarely ask why. We fill up the container of knowledge but rarely consider comprehending it or applying it more effectively.

In organizations, this external pattern continues.  As leaders we receive recognition for our external mastery. Revenue, profit, new product breakthroughs, cost savings, and market share are only some of the measures of our external competencies.  Few would question the value of achieving and measuring external results.  This isn’t the real issue.  The core questions are:  Where do the external results come from?  Is focusing on external achievement the sole source of greater accomplishment?  Could it be that our single-minded focus on external results is causing us to miss the underlying dynamics supporting sustainable peak performance?

An Inside Out Leadership Definition
Our definitions of leadership also tend to be externalized.  Most descriptions of leadership focus on the outer manifestations (i.e., performance, achievement, power, drive, etc.) instead of getting to the foundational principles of leadership itself.  Leadership from the inside out takes a different view. We cannot split off the person from the leader. The leader and the person are one. We lead by virtue of who we are.

We decided to do a deep, comprehensive examination of the most effective leaders we had assessed, advised, and developed over last thirty years to discern leadership patterns.  Our research premise was, “What is foundational to the most effective, results-producing leaders?  What supports their various competencies or styles on the surface?”  Three essential patterns became clear …

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9 Authentic Actions That Build Trust

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By Steve Watkins, originally posted on Investors.com on September 26, 2017. 

When a leader acts authentically, plenty of good things happen.  Be open, honest and match your actions with your words.  Others will trust you.

“If people trust, then they’ll engage,” Kevin Cashman, a senior partner at the executive search and recruiting firm Korn Ferry, told IBD. “If you show up with authenticity, others trust that and then you can marshal people.”

Here’s how to build that authenticity.

Make it bigger. It’s vital to not just be true to yourself but to serve others while doing it, says Cashman, who wrote “Leadership From the Inside Out” and leads his company’s CEO and executive development group.

“The test is if we’re creating value for others too,” Cashman said.

Show vulnerability. David MacLennan, CEO of food and agriculture company Cargill, told Cashman it’s vital to own up to your mistakes and shortcomings. It builds trust, encourages communication and creates powerful teamwork.

“Those are the leaders who earn the right to leadership, and it’s irresistible to follow them,” Cashman said.

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Mission Impossible: The New Age of Ambiguity

By Jonathan Dahl, originally published in Korn Ferry’s Briefings Magazine, Issue 32.  

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You’re the CEO of a UK-based international retailer that sells products for expectant mothers, with more than 1,300 stores and $650 million in revenue.  Two years ago, the board  brought you in to turn the retailer around – which is exactly what you have done, leading the firm to its first profit in years.

Then you wake up one June morning and the world has shifted.  And it’s no small shift.  Headlines are announcing the shocking Brexit vote, and nobody can say what that means exactly.  How will trade be affected?  Will EU workers have flexibility in the UK?  How much will the pound weaken?  Quickly, the questions – and the concerns – funnel down to your company.  All that seems certain now is that nothing is certain.

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Leadership from the Inside Out – Updated 3rd Edition Overview

The new edition of Leadership from the Inside Out will be available on Amazon on October 30, 2017.  Pre-order your copy here.

A True Measure Of Leadership Success: Seven Guiding Principles

By Kevin Cashman, originally posted on his Forbes.com blog, Pause Point, on September 5, 2017. 

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Taking a true measure of our leadership success is no easy task. Do we measure net profit? Gross revenue? Customer satisfaction and loyalty? EBITDA? Quarterly results? Stock price? Social responsibility? While all these yardsticks are crucial, do they really get to the essence of what sustains leadership for the long run?

Recently, a 70-year-old CEO reflected with me, “In the end, the real measure of success will unlikely be our accomplishments or achievements. Rather, our most authentic measure will likely be the lasting impact we had on the lives of people.” I doubt many of us will lament in our final hour, “If only I had pushed for one more percentage point of profit in my last quarter!” Likely we will reflect on our key relationships, on the people we have impacted, loved, grown and been influenced by.

In the 75+ year Grant and Glueck study at Harvard, the longest continuous research study with four research leaders to date, there has been one consistent finding across the decades, across generations and across geographies:  that the true measure of success and satisfaction rests on one thing, relationships.

In a leadership context, relationships play out in a multitude of ways in teams, collegial connections, culture and customers. In many ways, all leadership is in relationship, a way to add enduring value with and for people. However, I posit that there is one fundamental measure to our leadership effectiveness:  how many leaders have you produced?

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Drive and Connection

The Rewards of CEO Reflection

By Roselinde Torres, Martin Reeves, Peter Tollman, and Christian Veith.  Originally posted by the Boston Consulting Group  on June 29, 2017. 

CEOs live on a nonstop treadmill. They are under constant pressure to perform, live in a 24-7 spotlight of social-media attention, and swim in a deep pool of information. One CEO told us that she had received some 1,000 pieces of advice during her early days as the chief executive.

Corporate organizations are more complex than ever before. BCG’s “index of complicatedness” of major companies has been rising by nearly 7% per year for the past 50 years.

Deep thought and reflection are casualties of this high-pressure and high-stakes environment as CEOs rush from event to event and decision to decision. Downtime is often regarded as wasted time.

CEOs who do make time to reflect, however, say that it is time well spent, and our research on CEO success validates that view. Reflection leads to better insights into innovation, strategy, and execution. Reflection gives rise to better outcomes and higher credibility with corporate boards, leadership teams, workforces, and other stakeholders.

The most famous and successful practitioner of reflection is, perhaps, Warren Buffett, who says that he spends about six hours a day reading. “He has a lot of time to think,” says his partner Charlie Munger. “You look at his schedule sometimes, and there’s a haircut. Tuesday: haircut day.” Tuesday, in other words, is a thinking day.

Most CEOs do not have the luxury of limiting their daily calendar to a single act of reflection, but many of them could spend more time reflecting. It takes discipline, practice, and structure, but by routinely setting aside time in their calendars, CEOs can reap the rewards of reflection.

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Agility: The Power to Make Change Stick

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By Russel Pearlman, originally published in Korn Ferry’s Briefings magazine, Volume 8, 2017. 

As Rita McGrath tells it, it was a great strategy for a firm that needed one. For years a U.S.-based multinational company had been focused on selling commodity chemicals while giving away the expertise on how to use them for free. Now it planned to flip that business model on its head, developing long-term consulting contracts with its customers to capitalize on that highly valued advice. Projections showed that the firm could increase its profits from around 5 percent of sales to around 30 percent of sales.

But the reality never quite turned out that way. For two years the sales force never focused on creating consulting contracts—it just kept doing what it had been doing for years, selling as many tons of chemicals as possible.

McGrath, a professor at Columbia Business School, came in and quickly diagnosed the problem. The company hadn’t made the structural adjustments needed to pull off its grand strategy. That inflexibility brought everything to a standstill. “It’s inertia,” McGrath says. “People like to continue to do what they’re doing.”

In today’s ever-shifting global economy, brilliant minds are coming up with great strategies to get ahead. Yet an overwhelming number of these business innovations, cultural transformations and other great-on-paper ideas fail. Leaders will often publicly blame the economy, an upstart rival, the political environment or even the weather. But the truth is a lot simpler: Many of these plans start, but the firms and their leaders aren’t agile enough to make them stick.

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Purpose with the Power to Transform Your Organization

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Cathy Carlisi, Jim Hemerling, Julie Kilmann, Dolly Meese, and Doug Shipman; originally posted to BCG.com on May 15, 2017.

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Everywhere these days, people are talking purpose. As big believers, we’re encouraged by all the interest. Yet we’ve observed that many organizations are merely scratching the surface; they’re missing the full power of the kind of purpose that can transform.

Many organizations do a superficial job of articulating why they exist, settling for vision-setting exercises that lead to little more than catchy slogans and posters. Some craft purpose statements that are so generic they could apply to just about any company. Other efforts are inauthentic, like the politically correct promotion that has no connection to the company’s DNA. But even among organizations that articulate their purpose effectively, many are guilty of going no further. They do almost nothing to integrate purpose into the day-to-day experiences of their employees and customers. This “surface purpose” amounts to a thin veneer that doesn’t ingrain new beliefs and behaviors. Despite the hype, the organization remains unchanged.

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Why Women Aren’t C.E.O.s, According to Women Who Almost Were

By Susan Chira, originally posted on New York Times on July 21, 2017.

A year ago, dressed in suffragette white and addressing a cheering, weeping convention, Hillary Clinton stood for possibility. Now she is a reminder of the limits women continue to confront — in politics and beyond.

More than 40 years after women began pouring into the workplace, only a handful have made it all the way to the top of corporate America. The percentage of chief executives of Fortune 500 companies who are women just passed 6 percent, creeping up (and occasionally dropping back) at a glacial pace.

Why don’t more women get that No. 1 job?

Consider the experiences of the people who know best: Women who were in the running to become No. 1, but didn’t quite make it. The women who had to stop at No. 2.

What their stories show is that in business, as in politics, women who aspire to power evoke far more resistance, both overt and subtle, than they expected would be the case by now.

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