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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7 Clues You’re Unknowingly Sabotaging Your Strengths

By Kevin Cashman; originally posted on Success.com on October 30, 2017

One of the most effective ways to take this journey to a more integrated, authentic understanding of ourselves is to explore our personal belief systems. Few psychological dynamics are as fundamental as our beliefs. Beliefs literally create our reality; they are the lenses or filters through which we interpret the world. Some of these lenses focus on new horizons; others dim our view and limit possibilities. Beliefs are transformational. Every belief we have transforms our life in either an enriching or limiting way. As Bruce Lipton wrote in The Biology of Belief, “Our beliefs control our bodies, our minds and our lives.” In a sense, beliefs are the software of leadership, our deeply personal operating system that runs the show on the surface.

One of the most dramatic examples of the transformational power of beliefs comes from heavyweight fighter George Foreman. In the 1970s, Foreman was renowned for being one of the toughest, nastiest human beings on the planet. Angry and antisocial, he often came across as a mean, uncommunicative person—not at all the person you see today. He was not known for social graces, self-awareness or his big smile. However, immediately following his surprising loss to Jimmy Young in Puerto Rico, George went to his dressing room, laid down on the training table, and reportedly had an overwhelming spiritual experience. After that experience, George changed. He changed his entire life, everything: his personality, his relationships and his life purpose. He transformed them.

George peeled the onion of his personality, and the delightful, humorous, self-effacing George came forward. The important thing to note here is not whether George Foreman actually had a spiritual revelation. Many medical professionals say he suffered from severe heat exhaustion, and that’s what caused his experience. That’s not the point. The key principle is that George Foreman believed that he had a spiritual transformation, and that belief changed his life. What we believe, we become.

Through years of coaching people, we have consistently observed two distinct types of belief systems operating in people: Conscious Beliefs and Shadow Beliefs. Conscious Beliefs are the explicit, known beliefs we have. When asked what our beliefs are about ourselves, about other people or about life in general, we can articulate many of them. Although it might take some effort to access and clarify some of these beliefs, they are accessible to us on an everyday level.

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How To Help Your Senior Team Rediscover Its Core Purpose

By Kevin Cashman; originally posted on ChiefExecutive.net on October 26, 2017. 

Research conducted by both Harvard and colleagues at Korn Ferry has demonstrated one unsettling fact: senior teams are often the worst performing teams in organizations. But why? There are many possible reasons, but one of the biggest is a lack of shared purpose.

I’ve lost track of the number of times an experienced CEO has approached me wondering, “Why isn’t our senior team more engaged with the new strategy? What we need to do and how to get there are crystal clear. But the more I push, the less motivated people seem to be. What’s missing?”

Senior teams face three big realities that have to be placed in meaningful relationship for our enterprises to thrive:

  • The big ‘what’ question (vision): What is possible for us to become?
  • The big ‘how’ question (strategy): How will we get there?
  • The big ‘why’ question (purpose): Why is it so important that we exist in the world?

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Leadership from the Inside Out Introduction to New Material

The new edition of Leadership from the Inside Out is now available!  Order your copy here.

Mission Impossible: The New Age of Ambiguity

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

BrexitPic

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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Playing the Keys to an Electric Leadership Legacy

Fender

Leo Fender was a pioneer in the design and improvement of the electric guitar.  As innovative as he was to music, his leadership was electric too.  His resonant tones moved millions but so did the progressive tone of his leadership.

Occasionally, the world produces one of those rare leaders who alter the course of history.  Disney reinvented entertainment, Einstein revolutionized science, Edison lit up our lives with the light bulb, Bell got the world talking with the telephone – and Fender electrified music.  Leo Fender has influenced every person on earth today – at least everyone who has ever heard a song.

When Leo released his Telecaster guitar, people laughed at him.  Noting their strange, flat design, his critics said that all his strange guitars were useful for was to paddle boats.  Yet, Leo’s guitars went on to be used by everyone from Elvis Presley to Eric Clapton and from Jimmy Page to Jimmy Hendrix.  Indeed, Rolling Stone Magazine published a list of the world’s top 100 guitarists, and 90 of them played a Fender on stage.

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What is Emotional Self-Awareness?

By Dan Goleman, excerpted from Emotional Self-Awareness:  A Primer, and posted on the Korn Ferry Institute

Emotional Self-Awareness is the ability to understand your own emotions and their effects on your performance.  You know what you are feeling and why – and how it helps or hurts what you are trying to do.  You sense how others see you and so align your self-image with a larger reality.  You have an accurate sense of your strengths and limitations, which gives you a realistic self-confidence.  It also give you a clarity on your values and sense of purpose, so you can be more decisive when you set a course of action.  As a leader, you can be candid and authentic, speaking with conviction about your vision.

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What Now? Diversity and Inclusion in an Age of Trump — Post #3: Corporations have a Unique Opportunity to Provide Spaces for Dialogue and Healing

By Andrés Tapia, Senior Partner with Korn Ferry’s Diversity, Inclusion & Workforce Performance Practice.

Originally posted on LinkedIn.com on November 15, 2016.

CEOs have been calling me since the bombshell results of the US presidential election. They seek a sounding board for how best to respond as leaders of their organizations. They know that inside their corporate, store, plant, and factory walls flow the full crosscurrents of a polarized citizenry stoked up by poisonous rhetoric.

But they are unsure of how best to lead in these dangerous times. Do they just hope that employees will keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves while they are at work? They quickly recognize this head-in-the-sand approach will not be sustainable nor helpful but they hesitate to encourage the alternative of inviting expression from people across a wide political spectrum for understandable fear that this would only devolve into mirroring the rancor on the streets, cable news, and social media.

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