The Courageous Life Podcast

Kevin was recently interviewed by Joshua Steinfeldt on his podcast, The Courageous Life, on topics ranging from the importance of purpose and authenticity, how to inspire through storytelling, Leading from the Inside Out, and why courage may be the most important trait in leadership.

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A Higher Priority

“The business of business is business.” For decades, that old saying has been a guiding light for organizations. But this week, some of the country’s top business leaders have declared that shareholder value no longer has a stronghold on corporations’ bottom line.

On Monday, the Business Roundtable, an association of major US-based companies, released a statement that redefines corporation’s purpose. Whereas maximizing profits was once the main objective of American businesses, that purpose should now be centered on delivering value to all constituencies, from customers to the world at large, the group asserts. The statement was signed by 181 of the group’s 188 member CEOs.

Though provocative, it’s not a terribly outrageous notion, experts say. More and more corporations are starting to lead with purpose, understanding that real value creation comes from serving multiple stakeholders. According to Korn Ferry CEO Gary Burnison, the purpose debate has even made its way into the boardroom. “The vast majority of directors are motivated by the desire to make an impact” he says.

But it’s just not enough for the Roundtable to say, publicly, that shareholder value doesn’t define a company’s purpose entirely, says Kevin Cashman, global leader of Korn Ferry’s CEO & Executive Development practice. “Purpose is not just a nice statement,” he says. “It requires developmental transformation to make it happen.”

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The Founding Fathers’ Surprising Skill Sets

Who knew George Washington was big on diversity? Or that Ben Franklin was all about agility? And that, save for his famous midnight ride, Paul Revere was an expert on teamwork?

Indeed, the traits and skills that helped build a nation nearly 250 years ago could also work pretty well running a modern-day organization. In honor of Independence Day, here are four of the most important lessons today’s leaders can take away from America’s Founding Fathers.

Respect for Diversity

George Washington’s leadership style was completely at odds with not only that of England’s but also much of the history of leadership up to that point. Instead of being hierarchal, Washington encouraged discussion and consideration of alternative approaches. He had to—his army consisted of a diverse mix of volunteers and militias with different traditions and backgrounds, primarily loyal to their own town, region, or colony. “Washington made that diversity an asset by actively seeking the advice of his subordinates,” says Signe Spencer, a senior consultant with Korn Ferry.

Learning Agility

Ben Franklin’s capacity for learning is both well-known and unmatched. The scientist, philosopher, cartographer, postmaster, diplomat, and journalist spent his life acquiring knowledge. That ability to adapt to constantly-changing conditions is in demand at the highest levels of modern-day organizations, says Kevin Cashman, global leader of Korn Ferry’s CEO and Executive Development practice. “Franklin embodied the best of transformational leadership,” says Cashman.

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Enterprise Leadership: Five Big Resolutions for 2019

By Kevin Cashman; originally posted on his Forbes blog:  Pause Point on January 15, 2019. 

One of the toughest development challenges is to elevate a critical mass of talent from executive management to true enterprise leadership.  To move key talent from controlling systems, processes and financial performance to courageously create value creating significance, sustainability and purpose across an enterprise is no easy task.  To move senior people from thinking and behaving downwards into a function, a geography, a division or a single team, to thinking, and collaborating and inspiring across all functions, across all geographies, across all divisions, across all teams and across all customer groups is a very complex and critical shift.  Accelerating the development of executive managers into enterprise leaders may be the single most important factor in achieving your strategy and creating a more valuable and sustainable future.

In 2019, as you consider elevating leadership more authentically to the enterprise level, I suggest reflecting on five resolutions to help you to do so…

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Accelerating Change On-Purpose

By Kevin Cashman; originally posted to his Forbes blog, Pause Point on December 28, 2018. 

Although it may be true that we can’t “step into the same river twice,” as Heraclitis said, once we step in, we are part of that river’s flow.  Since birth, we have been swept up in a raging, constantly changing never-ending flow of experience.  Sometimes we love the flow of life, sometimes we hate it and resist it.  But because the flow of the river is constant, we have no choice in the matter.  We have to change.  It is part of the price of admission to life.  Every moment our cells are changing; our thoughts are changing; our emotions are changing; our relationships, our marketplace, our finances.  Change is endless and relentless.

We have no choice in the matter except for one aspect—accelerating our growth through change by adapting and learning.  Most leadership research illustrates that as we go up the executive ladder, we need to become increasingly comfortable with uncertainty and sudden change.  As leaders, we have to have the “integrative ability” to weave together and make sense of apparently disjoined pieces, crafting novel and innovative solutions.  At the same time, we need to have the self-confidence to make decisions on the spot, even in the absence of compelling, complete data.  The qualities needed at the top—courage, openness, authentic listening, adaptability—also indicate that leaders need to be comfortable with and able to embrace the “grayness” that comes from multiple points of view coming at us at once.  In other words, we have to master our adaptability mentally, emotionally, strategically, and interpersonally.

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The First Strikes Against Short-Termism

By Kevin Cashman and Jamen Graves.  Originally posted on Korn Ferry Institute on December 5, 2018. 

A message to Wall Street is starting to get out that at least one big firm will be trying to focus more on long-term goals and success rather than short-term quarterly gains. But the question remains: Will investors listen?

In one key move, Apple recently announced it would stop reporting individual sales each quarter for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, citing that such reports were “not representative of underlying state of business.”

According to Jamen Graves, a senior client partner at Korn Ferry who specializes in tech, the move is an attempt to align employees, customers, investors, and other stakeholders around the idea that Apple’s future success is about more than any one product.

“It sets up a culture that is conducive to what Apple needs to become,” says Graves. “The reporting change is likely just the beginning, and it signals a pivotal shift in what it means to work at Apple for employees, and how we should think about Apple as investors, shareholders, and customers.”

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8 Behaviors That Distinguish Effective Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship may be the purest form of leadership.  If leadership adds value by going beyond what is, then entrepreneurs express this tendency at the most essential level.  What makes an entrepreneur an effective one?  And what do these most effective entrepreneurs have to teach corporate leaders?

While we work with mainly corporate CEOs and senior leaders for the world’s largest companies, I have a soft spot and admiration for these enterprising, risk-stimulated types.  Granted, I was an entrepreneur for 25 years, so my bias and appreciation for business creators is no accident.

A massive growth in entrepreneurship is taking place across the U.S. with more than 500,000 becoming business owners every month, according to Vishal Agarwal.  Vishal should know, as a venture capitalist he is constantly interacting and advising young founders on the challenges of startup leadership.  In addition, Vishal was a former GE executive who can see the distinction between entrepreneurial and corporate leadership.

Vishal Agarwal is the bestselling author of Give to Get: A Senior Leader’s Guide to Navigating Corporate Life, and has studied the dynamics of why some startups succeed and others fail.  Interestingly, he sees the most successful entrepreneurs as “servant leaders,” those who serve the enterprise vs. self-serve.  He has discerned several key principles that distinguish successful startup leaders.

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Leadership Changes Everything

How Can You Tell Someone Has True Leadership Skills? This Legendary Football Coach Nails It With 1 Brilliant Sentence

By Marcel Schwantes; originally posted on Inc.com on February 20, 2018. 

A few days ago, I was listening to a Higher Purpose podcast where the host, Kevin Monroe, asked his guest Jeff Harmon, a leadership coach and author of The Anatomy of a Principled Leader, about the challenges of using the word “love” in the leadership and workplace sense.

Now before you get an allergic reaction to the word “love” in this sense, Harmon masterfully juxtaposes our often-misconstrued interpretation of love as a “soft” management approach to the actual management approach of one of the toughest and most revered sports icons of all time —  the legendary head coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi. Here’s what coach Lombardi once boldly stated:

I don’t necessarily have to like my players and associates but as their leader I must love them. Love is loyalty, love is teamwork, love respects the dignity of the individual. This is the strength of any organization. [emphasis mine]

Keep in mind, this is the same hard-driving Vince Lombardi who also made famous the statement: “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”

That’s why his love quote is even more profound when you think about it. As Harmon pointed out, we often view any notion of leadership and love through the spiritual teachings of historical and religious figures like Ghandi or Jesus of Nazareth.

Perhaps long overdue, the no-nonsense Vince Lombardi slaps us upside the head with a sober understanding of love and leadership even more applicable for the workplace today. Surprisingly for his generation, it was this approach to coaching his players that brought the Packers total dominance in the 1960s, when they conquered five World Championships over a seven-year period (including the first two Super Bowl wins).

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Leadership from the Inside Out

By Skip Prichard, interview with Kevin Cashman.  Originally posted on SkipPrichard.com on March 12, 2018. 

I first read Leadership From the Inside Out years ago. It is one of the books that helps build a foundation of knowledge for leaders. That’s why I was excited to see that it is now out in a new version with updated chapters, new case studies and stories, and even more practical exercises to help everyone achieve their leadership potential.

Author Kevin Cashman is the Global Leader of CEO & Executive Development at Korn Ferry. He has advised thousands of senior leaders across almost every industry.

We recently talked about his updated book and his leadership views.

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