Enterprise Leadership: New leadership for a new world

Originally posted to KornFerry.com on May 4, 2021. 

Today’s leaders are being asked to simultaneously run the business and change the business. But Korn Ferry research shows that only 14% of leaders have what it takes.

CEOs today are leading in a world moving through crisis and disruption—where challenges have no known solutions, or if they do, there are far too many choices and few clear ones. Yet even while driving change amidst all this uncertainty, they need to keep the trains running on time.

This expectation that CEOs will transform the business while they maintain strong performance is not exactly new; it’s a trend that has been on an upward trajectory for years. But the current landscape has only accelerated this need. Keep employees safe or maintain efficient operations. Seek big and bold ideas or continue with the current strategy. Scale the company or focus on the core customer.

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Becoming a Leader: 6 Ideas for Today’s World

Originally posted to KornFerry.com on April 29, 2021.

Becoming a better leader normally involves, well, being a leader. Indeed, most leadership experts say about 70% of learning and development comes from challenging assignments that force leaders to learn new skills. The rest of that development usually involves hours of training seminars, working with coaches, and dedicating oneself to become more self-aware, mindful, and reflective.

In a pandemic, of course, much of that training wasn’t possible. But the skill sets for being a strong leader—of a team, a department, or an entire company—couldn’t have been more in demand, and still are. Only these days, leadership-building advice has been shifting, with greater emphasis on careful listening, more transparency, and greater probing. Below, a host of our tips—some fairly standard, some unorthodox—to grow into a better leader.

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Wisdom Isn’t What You Think It Is

By David Brooks.  Originally posted to New York Times on April 15, 2021. 

Morrie Schwartz was a Brandeis sociology professor who died of A.L.S. in 1995. While he was dying, he had a couple of conversations with Ted Koppel on “Nightline” and a bunch with his former student Mitch Albom, who wrote a book, “Tuesdays With Morrie,” which sold over 15 million copies. For a few years, Schwartz was the national epitome of the wise person, the gentle mentor we all long for.

But when you look at Schwartz’s piercing insights … well, they’re not that special: “Accept what you are able to do and what you are not able to do.” Schwartz’s genius was the quality of attention he brought to life. We all know we’re supposed to live in the present and savor the fullness of each passing moment, but Schwartz actually did it — dancing with wild abandon before his diagnosis, being fully present with all those who made the pilgrimage to him after it.

Schwartz recruited Albom to share his quality of attention. He bathed his former student with unconditional positive regard, saw where Albom’s life was sliding into workaholism, and nudged him gently back to what he would value when facing his own death.

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Learning Agility from the Inside Out

Originally posted to KornFerry.com on April 14, 2021.  

Agile learners are hungry for more. More knowledge. More experiences. More skills.

These learners find lessons in everything they do. They are endlessly curious—relentless in their pursuit of new facts and information. They take risks, both big and small, exploring new and novel situations. They look back on those experiences, with mindfulness and intention, applying what they’ve learned to future events.

Curiosity, risk-taking, and reflection are central to Learning Agility. People who are highly learning agile have a sense of wonder, a readiness to seek out the unfamiliar, and an ability to unpack this new knowledge in actionable ways. And in today’s ever-evolving, ever-challenging business landscape, these qualities are in great demand, seen increasingly as critical to a company’s success.

Yet, although Learning Agility as a construct is nothing new, learning agile leaders are still in low supply. For decades, organizations have tried to develop a more agile workforce, with talent flexing and strengthening their Learning Agility muscles through stretch assignments and high-stakes turnarounds. But, experts say, the challenges of recent years have created a new dilemma: agile leaders are needed more today than ever before, yet in a world that’s much more digital and much more insulated, the traditional ways of developing agility may no longer be enough.

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The Purpose Principle: Gifts, Grow, Give

By Kevin Cashman; originally posted on his Forbes blog:  Pause Point on April 7, 2021. 

Purpose inspires the unmet longing of humans to make a significant difference in the lives of people. Korn Ferry Institute research on consumer products companies indicates just how much purpose actually powers performance. Comparing “average purpose-driven” companies to “highly purpose-driven” consumer companies, we found four times the revenue growth over a three year period.

As leaders we have a responsibility to address this significant question: “Why is it so important that we exist?” With this question, we courageously face who we are and how we are in the world. As the battle rages for the soul of capitalism, we need to pause on a few questions: Will we define business solely in terms of transactional financial levers, designed to accumulate capital, or will we apply our vision to shape business as a more universal lever that serves a higher, more sustainable purpose? Will the top two percent serve the 98 percent, or will the top two percent dominate, control, and be served by the 98 percent? When will we elevate from enterprise success to ecosystem sustainability? What is a new, broader definition of value creation that can endure?

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Reflecting on a year of learning, progress, and healthcare transformation with Mayo Clinic CEO Dr. Gianrico Farrugia

Podcast originally posted to Kearney.com on March 17. 2021. 

Dr. Gianrico Farrugia has been at the center of the battle against COVID-19 as president and CEO of Mayo Clinic, the top hospital system in the United States. Dr. Farrugia joins host Paul Laudicina to reflect on what his institution has learned after this difficult year, the progress in COVID-19 treatments, and his vision for an innovative future of healthcare.

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The Long Goodbye

Originally posted to KornFerry.com on March 3, 2021.  

No more commuting to work. More time at the house with the family. And never setting foot on a plane for an exhausting business trip.

In one of the stranger twists of the pandemic, a small but surprising number of older executives have discovered they’re arguably better off in today’s remote-work world—enough to put off retiring. To be sure, they’re still energized, working hard, and dealing with the work stress that the pandemic has brought on. “But I’m hearing the upsides are making it worth it to stay on,” says Kevin Cashman, global leader of CEO and executive development at Korn Ferry.

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The Pause Principle: Stepping Back to Lead Forward

By Kevin Cashman.  Originally posted to LeaderCast blog on January 21, 2021

Over the past 30 years of coaching CEOs, senior teams and leaders around the globe, I’ve lost track of the number of times a high-achieving leader turned to me and asked, “Kevin, how can we step up to achieve more—to go to the next level?” To their surprise, I usually recommend stepping back—pausing—but, because it is antithetical to what they have always done, they insist, “We don’t need to pause more; we need to do more.”

Why would pragmatic, hard-charging, achievement-driven leaders pause in order to accelerate performance and growth? Put simply, that is exactly what is needed to sort through complexity, optimize talent and drive performance to the next level. If we leaders today do not step back to gain perspective and transcend the immediacies of life, we will continue to crash economically, personally and collectively. Our downside survival and upside innovation depend on this transformative process. Certainly, we need to do more to meet the demands of high-performance, complexity and innovation, but in today’s world the doing needs to be new and different.

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The Strain Isn’t Over

Originally posted to KornFerry.com on January 6, 2021. 

It’s as if 2020 never ended.

Before the new year was just a few days old, news emerged of a considerably more infectious strain of COVID-19 making its way around the world, causing more lockdowns and overwhelming hospitals. The story dominated the news—along with reports of chaotic vaccine distributions and, of course, the unsettling protests and political drama in Washington, DC. Experts say all this has made it very difficult for leaders to launch the year the way they had hoped while finding new ways to motivate a tiring and anxious work staff. “The bigger concern for leaders is inspiring their teams to maintain of level of resilience,”  says Tierney Remick, vice-chair and co-leader of Korn Ferry’s Board and CEO Services practice. “Employee fatigue is real.”

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Soul Searching

By Gary Burnison, CEO of Korn Ferry and the author of Leadership U: Accelerating Through the Crisis Curve.  Originally posted to Korn Ferry Institute

Another year has passed me by…
And I’m still in the dark
‘Cause I can’t seem to find the light alone

– “Man in the Wilderness,” by Styx

We’re at the 11th hour of the 11th month of a year like no other. From time to time, the sentiment for all of us has been, “What else could 2020 possibly bring?” During those times, we are like that person in the wilderness—wandering along, never quite knowing why—trying to make sense of it all.

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