Thursday, May 30, 2019

Diversity and Inclusion – Two Very Different Concepts

Guest post from Stephen Frost and Raafi-Karim Alidina:

To build an inclusive organisation, there are two main things you need
to do.  You need to de-bias the systems that run the organisation, such as recruitment, pay, procurement, talent management and marketing.  And you need to lead inclusively.  Whilst both are important, leadership is the cornerstone, without which all the diversity initiatives in the world will be in vain.

When we think about how to reduce unconscious bias in organisations,
we often think about systems and processes. We think about recruitment policies, or how we do performance evaluations, or flexible working arrangements. We anonymize CVs, do 360° evaluations, and make work flexibility the default. All of these techniques are extremely important in making the workplace more equitable. They help to level the playing field and reduce the risk that we are systematically favouring or penalising any particular group.

However, as important as these processes are, they are only one half of the solution.

Diversity and inclusion – despite that they are often discussed together – are actually two very different concepts.  Diversity is about the mix of people on your team or in your organisation.  Making sure you have the right policies in place really helps with this half of the equation.  It makes sure that a broad swathe of people apply, that marginalised groups are just as likely to make it through the application process as majority groups, and that everyone has equal opportunity for advancement.

Inclusion, however, is about making sure the mix of people we have works.  It’s about ensuring that no one, regardless of their background or identity, has to worry about hiding parts of themselves. In an inclusive workplace, everyone has equal opportunity and support to thrive.  While policies can help with this to some degree, the work of including people is mostly done through leadership.

The reason for this is that while policies can mandate the way we review applications, they can’t really mandate how we run a meeting, or how we create an organizational culture.  That culture is built through the behaviours exhibited by all who work there.  If people are making sexist or racist jokes or comments, whether in formal meeting settings or during casual conversations, that creates a less inclusive environment. It makes those people who are the butt of those jokes feel like they are misunderstood and that people will judge them based on stereotypes rather than for who they are as an individual and the work they do.

However, if employees and especially organizational leaders make a point of calling out these bad behaviours and holding offenders accountable for their actions, we begin to show members of marginalized groups that these jokes do not reflect the culture the firm is trying to create.

Calling out offensive behaviours is easy, though – it’s obvious and overtly discriminatory.  However, there are subtler behaviours that are key to creating an inclusive environment that leaders should embrace.  For example, we know that women, disabled people, ethnic minorities, and other members of marginalized groups are more likely to be interrupted in meetings and have their ideas attributed to other people (usually middle-aged white men). If leaders make a point of ensuring that interruptions aren’t tolerated, or that when a good point is repeated that they give proper credit to the original person who made the point, it would go a long way to making sure that everyone feels welcome at work.

It goes beyond the traditional protected characteristics as well – introverts and people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, for example, often experience subtle behaviours that exclude them from bringing their whole selves to work and being their best.

To increase psychological safety – the feeling that it’s safe to contradict your boss, make mistakes, and dissent with decisions – leaders might consider having a dedicated devil’s advocate in meetings or including “rotten tomatoes time” in meetings where the goal is to poke holes in decisions or ideas that have come up. This creates a culture where disagreement and debate is welcome, and guards against blind spots and groupthink.

If you notice that some of your staff don’t speak up much in meetings, you might consider rotating the chair of the meeting to increase the participation of introverts.  Alternatively, you could send out questions with agendas in advance so that those who would rather think more deeply about their answers have the time to do so rather than simply reacting instinctually during meetings.

Policies and systems definitely need to be in place to ensure a diverse workplace – they help with recruitment and promotion, and ensure equality as much as possible.  But for inclusion, it is critical that leaders behave inclusively.  And when leaders set the example, their employees will follow. This is what creates an inclusive environment, and ensures that good people – regardless of their identity – can thrive.  As a result, those businesses will thrive as well.

Stephen Frost is co-author of Building An Inclusive Organization: Leveraging the Power ofa Diverse Workforce, and the CEO of the leadership consultancy Frost Included specializing in diversity and inclusion.

Raafi-Karim Alidina is co-author of Building An Inclusive Organization: Leveraging the Power of a Diverse Workforce, and a consultant with Frost Included, working with clients to help create more inclusive workplace cultures.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Leadership Irony: To Accomplish More, Do Less

Guest post from Sara Canaday:

As leaders, we are, by definition, doers. We finish. We deliver. We get results. And we love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with crossing things off our “to-do” lists. The tougher the task, the better we like it. We revel in being that person people bring the undoable to and then conquer.  That’s how we got here, right? We became the go-to resource for those around us, and it fueled our rise through the ranks. No whining. Just do it.

But what if our bias for action, our quest for pushing harder, won’t work anymore? What if incessant doing keeps us from greatness? Is that possible?

Here is a story that illustrates what I mean. A few years ago, I was asked to facilitate a leadership retreat for a tech company. On the agenda, was a business simulation that was akin to an outdoor scavenger hunt. The participants were divided into small groups and each team was asked to spend a few hours strategizing and developing a plan that would lead to the best and fastest way to find items and “collect” associated winnings.  Without going into detail, I can tell you that the group I was assigned to observe and coach post-simulation was convinced their airtight plan would net them the ultimate prize. They were going to stay together as a group and use their collective brain power to solve the clues.

That was their thinking anyway.

But a funny thing happened when the simulation started. This very deliberate and intelligent group of leaders almost immediately abandoned their well-thought-out plan and let their instincts kick in. Instead of sticking together and relying on their identified roles, several individuals strayed from the group and started to “hunt” on their own. The rest of the team followed suit and began to scatter frantically.   

When we debriefed later, the discussion was fascinating. Humans are all hard-wired for action, and these leaders started to realize the implications of that reality. They could all see that their competitive adrenaline rush and the time pressure ignited their natural bias for action. In the heat of the moment, they felt compelled—even obligated—to do something. To dive in and make it happen. Forget the strategy. Ditch the plan.   

Here’s the rub. As leaders, we are being asked to both think more and do more. We need better ideas and more strategies, and we also need to keep moving. That’s an impossible tension. We can’t endlessly do both things at the same time. 

So, what’s the answer? It might surprise you.

Modern leaders who are achieving phenomenal success have figured out the solution. Instead of making action the default for every challenge, these leaders are pairing that alternative with an opposite response. It’s not about replacing action, which we know is a necessary leadership ingredient. We still need to reach our goals, meet deadlines, and produce results. This is different.

They think of it as developing a companion habit that celebrates BEING rather than DOING. It involves a strategic pause. A mental time-out. Space for their brains to percolate and process the mounds of the information they’ve been packing in.

Whatever we call it, this new habit requires consistently taking some time away from the chaos of business to let ourselves reflect and plan. To connect the dots between information in different ways and to look at challenges from a fresh angle. We can’t possibly do that when we are in constant motion.

No doubt about it, modern leaders have realized the extraordinary benefits of the strategic pause. They don’t mistake motion for meaning.

Neuroscientists at Washington University tested this theory by collecting brain-scan data from people who were busy doing mental tasks like math problems and word games. While the intense focus of these tasks caused spikes in some parts of the brain, it also caused declines in other parts.

These researchers ultimately found a background activity in the brain that, oddly enough, is much more active when people are sitting quietly in a room doing nothing. That’s a pivotal finding.

They discovered that the “resting brain” is actually quite busy with absorbing and evaluating information, but we curtail that function when we allow the “active brain” to hijack all the mental energy. If we want creativity to flourish, we need to deliberately pause on occasion and allow that background process to take priority.

As hard as it is for us doers to believe, all the evidence says that maximum effectiveness and innovation start with…STOPPING.  

Yes, it’s tough to do. I admit it. We’ve been taught to move forward, to finish, to be relentless. We have even been handsomely rewarded for it.

But I am here to tell you that this bias for action could be working against you. If you want your organization and your team to grow, incorporate the strategic pause. Proactively make an unbreakable appointment with yourself to think. To be. Give yourself time and space. Change the scenery. You, your team, and all your stakeholders will be glad you did.  

Keynote Speaker, LinkedIn Learning Instructor and Author SaraCanaday is a rare blend of analytical entrepreneur and perceptive warmth. That powerful combination has increasingly made her a go-to resource for helping leaders and high-potential professionals achieve their best. She is a sought-after leadership speaker and educator, serving diverse organizations around the world. In that capacity, Sara has gained a unique, front-line view of leadership and its fascinating evolution. She shares those observations with in-depth analysis in her second book, Leadership Unchained:  Defy conventional wisdom for breakthrough performance,”.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

10 Questions Leaders Must Answer When Making Big Decisions

Guest post from Greg Bustin

Leaders are in the decision-making business.

Some of your decisions are bigger than others, and so to be considered successful on your terms as well as the terms of others means you must make more good decisions than bad decisions when the stakes are highest.

What’s your decision-making process?

There are 10 questions leaders must answer—either intentionally or intuitively, either alone or collaboratively—when making big decisions.
At the heart of sound decision-making is being crystal clear about what you stand for.

Because no matter how much more complex the world seems to become and no matter how much more quickly we race to outrun others, great leaders operate from a set of principles they use daily as filters for making decisions.

Your mettle as a leader is not truly tested until your principles have the potential to cost you something. Money. Power. Position. Lives. Reputation. Your beliefs form the bedrock of your character. And your character drives your decision-making.

You also must know very clearly what you want. It’s hard to be committed—especially to an outcome that may stretch your abilities as well as those of your colleagues—if you’re not clear about what you want. And what you don’t want.

Goal clarity helps you minimize distractions and gives you confidence to make the necessary—and sometimes difficult—decisions that will allow you and your team to remain focused on your desired outcomes and remember why those outcomes matter. Clarity equips you to overcome obstacles, endure sacrifice and withstand setbacks as you press on toward realizing your dream.

And so the next time you’re facing a big decision, ask and answer these 10 questions:

1. What are the facts?

2. What is our objective?

3. What—precisely—is the problem or set of problems we must solve to achieve our objective?

4. Who should be involved in helping reach a decision?

5. What are all of the possible solutions?

6. Are the possible solutions aligned with my (our) core values? Eliminate those possible solutions that are not.

7. What are the consequences of each of the remaining solutions?

8. What’s the best possible solution?

9. How must we communicate this solution to our stakeholders?

10. Who will do what by when?

As you think about your personal leadership style and how you’ll apply these decision-making guidelines, recall the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt: “There are many ways of moving forward but only one way of standing still.”

So when you postpone a tough decision—when, in effect, you fail to decide—you are actually making a decision to do nothing.

It’s logical when facing a momentous decision to want to gather as many facts as possible, play out as many scenarios as you can devise, test theories, engage in conversations with confidantes and trusted advisors, and spend time alone soul-searching. You owe it to yourself and those you’re leading to be thoughtful about big decisions. But avoid the temptation to postpone a big decision simply because you don’t want to decide. Leadership requires you to make the tough decision and get your team moving.

The word “decide” is derived from Latin decidere, meaning literally "to cut off," from de- "off" (de-) + caedere "to cut" (-cide).

“Decide” shares the same partial origin as the words “homicide,” “pesticide” and “suicide,” which essentially means that to decide is to “cut off” or “kill off” other choices or options in order to choose a course of action.

Sometimes you must choose between several bad options. But choose you must.

Failure to act saps time, money and energy. Failure to act can hurt your customers and help your competition. Failure to act confuses and discourages your colleagues. Your colleagues are looking for a commonsense approach where trust, discipline and good old fashioned hard work gets things done. Confidant decision-making accompanied by decisive action is a one-two punch that’s important to any leader whose team is eager to contribute to success.
Once you decide, move forward.

"Don't make the same decision twice,” cautions Bill Gates. “Spend time and thought to make a solid decision the first time so that you don't revisit the issue unnecessarily. If you're too willing to reopen issues, it interferes not only with your execution but also with your motivation to make a decision in the first place. After all, why bother deciding an issue if it isn't really decided?" 

What big decisions are on your horizon? What options must you “kill off” in order to make your next big decision?

About the Author: Greg Bustin is an executive coach, consultant and speaker who has delivered more than 500 keynotes and workshops on five continents. Greg advises leaders at some of the world’s most admired companies, and his views about leadership have been published in The Wall Street Journal, Chief Executive, Fast Company, Forbes, Inc., Investor’s Business Daily, Leader to Leader, and other major publications. He’s written five leadership books. His newest book, How Leaders Decide: A Timeless Guide to Making Tough Choices (Sourcebooks), examines decision-making in history’s greatest triumphs and tragedies.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Unspoken Role of Confidence in Leadership

Guest post from Karen J. Hewitt:

Leadership is one of the most regularly used words in the world of business, and arguably one of the most important.  But what does it really mean, and is it delivering what it promises in organisations?

Leadership is “the action of leading a group of people or an organisation”, and there are two important things to note:

Firstly, leadership does not necessarily require an official title.
Whilst leading the organisation does often come with a title – like CEO or Managing Director – leading a group of people does not.   The latter, because of its lack of position power, implies the ability to influence without it.  Whilst some people consider both forms to be leadership; others differentiate between the two, saying that a manager has the title, whereas a leader has the people, i.e., the first form is not true leadership, but management.

An even better distinction comes in the differences between transactional and transformational leadership – a term brought to prominence by James McGregor Burns in the political sphere and then adopted in business. 

Transformational leadership is a style that can be used to inspire others to follow, and to create change in organisations, through a strong belief in a cause, inspiring people with a big vision, connecting with them as individuals and challenging their thinking.

Secondly, to lead in the sense described above requires influence, but this requires confidence.   Leaders need confidence in themselves, and to be able to inspire it in others, and the two are intrinsically linked. 

We follow people when we trust – that what the would-be leader says is in line with our own beliefs, and that what they say will be acted on, and become our reality.
If the above is true, why then do we never discuss confidence in business? 

In high performance sport, confidence is a topic on everyone’s agenda, because the sports world knows what business has been slow to pick up on – that confidence is the secret to performance.

You can be the most talented person in the race, but only confidence will get you to the starting line.  Without it, you won’t leave the locker room, and with it you’ll step out of your comfort zone – the only place where potential can be realised.

All of this is relevant to your C-Suite, because these are the people you absolutely need to lead the organisation, and even with their official titles, they still need to be able to inspire a whole organisation. 

Transactional leadership will lead their people to perform to expectations, but only transformational leadership, with that additional ingredient of inspiration, will get performance beyond it.

And in today’s turbulent and tough business environment, do we expect any less than this?

It’s also relevant to all of your employees. 

Whilst having your C-Suite lead is imperative, you also need your employees to lead – to champion your change agenda, and speak out for and uphold your company’s standards. 

To do so requires confidence in all its facets. 

Your employees need a strong sense of self and their place in the world, an ability to project confidence to others – through their body language, voice and words – and to be resilient in the face of unexpected challenges.

In companies, we sometimes offer our people training in presentation skills, which help them to project confidence to others.  What rarely gets attention, however, is our employees’ sense of self and their place in the world. 

We trust they will either figure this out for themselves, or cover up for a lack of it by projecting a veneer of confidence in the workplace.  Indeed, many of us have become adept at this, but without the layers of confidence beneath it, something is missing, and others can see it.

Transformational leadership is the most powerful form of leadership, because as its name suggests, it has the ability to create wholesale transformation in your company. 

To deliver it, we need our leaders to have the natural charisma that comes from internal and deep confidence, when the leader is clear and congruent on who they are and what they believe in.

This type of confidence is long-term and highly effective, especially when combined with the ability to project external confidence to others.  

Investing in it will allow your employees to lead within your company, even when the winds of change are threatening to batter down its doors.

Some say that leadership is only really tested when the going gets tough, and without confidence in all its forms, how do we know our confident leaders will stand strong and tall, and handle whatever turbulent times throw at them?

The people in your organisation may already be of high calibre, but confidence is a part of being human, and peaks and troughs affect all of us, even the high performers.

Confidence is a subject that is more complex than most of us imagine, but with a little more knowledge, we can start understanding the role it plays in leadership.

And with a daily investment in building and maintaining it, we can start reaping the rewards.

Let’s also remember that corporate environments sap confidence from our people on a daily basis – another reason to make it a focus.   And to make sure this newfound confidence is able to take root, we need an equal focus on a culture that enables it to thrive.

With confidence such a critical part of leadership, and leadership key to unlocking the potential of your people and the organisation, isn’t it time to make the unspoken spoken?

Karen J. Hewitt is a multilingual “”Engagement and Culture Change specialist with proven credentials in creating cross-border leadership movements within organisations.  She is the author of “Employee Confidence – the new rules of Engagement”, finalist in the Leadership category of the Business Book Awards 2019.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Building Trust Through Behavioral Integrity

Guest post from S. Chris Edmonds:

Cornell University professor Dr. Tony Simons’ powerful article, “The High Cost of Lost Trust,” appeared in the Harvard Business Review in 2002. In that piece, he described his team’s efforts to examine a specific hypothesis (“Employee commitment drives customer service”) in the US operations of a major hotel chain. They interviewed over 7,000 employees at nearly 80 properties and found that employee commitment drives customer service, but, most critically, a leader’s behavioral integrity drives that and more.

Simons’ team defines behavioral integrity as “managers keeping their promises and demonstrating espoused values.” Their research methods and analysis discovered:

     When employees believe their bosses have behavioral integrity, their commitment goes up.
     As employee commitment goes up, employees willingly demonstrate discretionary effort.
     Employees are more proactive, more present, and more productive with the application of their discretionary energy.
     Employee discretionary effort is visible to and highly valued by customers. Customers respond by staying more frequently, staying longer, eating on the property, etc
     Those customer behaviors generate higher profits. Significantly higher profits!

Dr. Simons’ team created an assessment that measured behavioral integrity on a five-point scale. Their analysis found that a 1/8 point gain on this scale generated a profit gain of 2.5% of annual revenues . . . which translated into $250K for each hotel! This study made an important link – one that had not been demonstrated before: manager behavior, specifically keeping promises and demonstrating company values, generates hard dollar profits. (Simons’ work continues at The Integrity Dividend with a book, programs, blog, and more.)

Whenever the trust of workplace leaders in the USA dips, employees consequently plan to look for a new job, citing low trust of their workplace, senior leaders, direct bosses, or even co-workers as a primary driver.

Two research studies have noted this “age of mistrust.” According to Deloitte’s 2010 Ethics & Workplace Survey, one-third of employed Americans planned to look for a new job when the economy stabilized. Of this group, 48 percent say that a lack of honest communication from company leaders was their primary reason for that decision. This survey also reports that 65 percent of Fortune 1000 executives who were concerned with the upcoming “talent drain” believed trust is a factor in this voluntary turnover.

Maritz Research’s workplace study echoes the Deloitte findings. According to the Maritz poll, only 11 percent of American employees strongly agree that their managers show consistency between their words and their actions. Only 7 percent of employees strongly agree that they trust senior leaders to look out for their best interest (!) and only 7 percent believe their co-workers will do so.

The Maritz poll also found that about 20% of respondents do not believe that their company’s leader is completely honest and ethical; fully 25% disagree that they trust management to make the right decisions in times of uncertainty. Of those employees who do not trust company management, only 3% look forward to coming to work every day!

Sharon Allen, Deloitte’s chairman of the board, notes that, by focusing on talent management and retention strategies, “executives may be able to reduce attrition.” She goes on to state, “Establishing and enforcing a values-based culture will ultimately help cultivate employee trust.”

What is the degree of trust in your workplace? What are you willing to do to measure that level of trust and improve in in the months to come?

S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant. After a 15-year career leading successful teams, Chris founded his consulting company, The Purposeful Culture Group, in 1990. Chris has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies since 1995. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including Amazon best sellers The Culture Engine and Leading at a Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. Learn from his blog posts, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos at Get free resources plus weekly updates from Chris by subscribing here

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Lion on the Desk

Guest post by David Komlos and David Benjamin:

You arrive at work one morning, take the elevator up to your appointed floor, amble down the carpeted hallway staring at your shoes and wondering what the day has in store for you, open your door…and there sits a ferocious lion. As startled as you are, the lion roars a mighty roar.

If you are like most people, in the blink of an eye you slam the door, turn tail and run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.

In the blink of an eye: You saw a lion where a lion shouldn’t be; You absorbed the implications of there being a lion, untethered, mere feet from you; You thought about what to do about that; You decided on a course of action; and you implemented that course of action with haste. In the blink of an eye.

The sensing, absorbing, thinking, and deciding functions that you just processed were extremely efficient, and so you were able to get to action right away. No confusion, no mixed messages, no need for consensus-building or alignment, no persuasion necessary – just a very, very smooth path from sensing to fleeing.

The Actual Lion

Now, rather than the lion, substitute a defining business challenge licking its chops on your desk. Ask yourself which people, from in and around your organization:
·         Play a sensing role with respect to this lion;
·         Act as absorbers, picking up stimulus from those sensors and translating them into implications;
·         Gather and think about implications and translate them into options;
·         Consider the options, weigh them, and produce decisions; and
·         Ultimately, implement or drive the actions that will enact those decisions.

In most corporate settings, the answer is probably a large group of people.
The response to your metaphorical lion doesn’t happen – can’t happen – in the blink of an eye because those functions are played by a lot of people, distributed across and, sometimes, outside the organization.

Sometimes, the response won’t get triggered at all (or gets triggered far too late) because business challenges don’t usually present themselves so plainly as our lion.

Take a new competitive threat for example…

(SENSE) Sales people might hear and observe their customers’ reactions to that threat – as might your market researchers, call center folks, external market experts, and even your finance team as they watch the erosion of market share and revenue.

(ABSORB) Some of those people may also absorb the implications of what they’re seeing, and there are also likely others whose job it is to explicitly look for trends like this and consider what they might mean.

(THINK) When fed an alarming trend, management will think about what to do about it (ideally, informed by the sensors and absorbers), and/or may outsource the thinking to experts and/or consultants.

(DECIDE) Those same managers may also decide on a course of action or bump it up the ranks to decide.

(ACT) And a team may ultimately be launched to implement the resulting action plan, together with a steering committee and supported by project managers, communications people, and so on.
… and months pass…

Meanwhile, the lion has eaten your lunch.

Taming the Lion

Organizational SATDA – sensing, absorbing, thinking, deciding, and acting – is slow and unwieldy because so many people are involved and they’re all over the place, physically distant, and too often siloed. This is a first principal, universal truth. And this is why it’s so hard to keep up with the pace and scope of the metaphorical lions which, contrary to the popular song, don’t sleep at night (they’re too busy keeping you up.)

Recognizing this, what’s a great leader to do?

First off, accept the basic truth that this is just the way things are. No amount of reorg-ing, incentivizing, agiling, design thinking, change management, or outsourcing is going to undo this truth. At some point, to act quickly, the sensors, absorbers, thinkers, deciders and actors need to be brought together.

Next, convene that group and equip them to join forces in executing all of the SATDA functions as part of a focused, non-linear effort, all at once: Get them in the same place; Orchestrate their interactions so that every individual bumps into every other individual meaningfully and repeatedly; Impose rules and roles at those collision points to diffuse hierarchy, self-interest, and polite conflict-avoidance; and weave those interactions together within a closed network. Just like neurons in a single brain; like your brain, when you saw the lion and ran.

When you’ve done this right, the result is very efficient, human parallel processing:
·         Sensors (and everyone else) talking about what they sense, while
·         Absorbers (and everyone else) are exploring both good and bad implications, while
·         Thinkers (and everyone else) are developing ideas and weighing options, while
·         Deciders (and everyone else) are choosing and developing the best options, while
·         Actors (and everyone else) are building the right plan of action.

Finally, you need to trust in and commit to the results of their effort. If you’ve done a strong job of getting the right cross-section of people together, and if you’ve equipped them well, they will get to a shared understanding of the lion, clarity on what has to happen, and alignment on the importance of making it happen. You need to share in their shared understanding and their clarity, and you need to make the resulting action plan top priority. 

For this reason, to truly believe they’re right, you need to go back a step and add yourself to the group while they’re figuring things out, not after.
When there is strong alignment and mobilization amongst the Sensors, Absorbers, Thinkers, Deciders and Actors (and you!), the lion won’t stand a chance.

CAVEAT: This approach won’t literally get you to action in the ‘blink of an eye’; you’ll need a few days of shared effort and a few weeks to get going on implementation. Which, on second thought, really is the organizational equivalent of the ‘blink of an eye’.

David Komlos and David Benjamin are co-authors of CRACKING COMPLEXITY: The Breakthrough Formula for Solving Just About Anything Fast (Nicholas Brealey; May 7, 2019). They are CEO and Chief Architect of Syntegrity, where they apply the formula to help leaders rapidly solve complex challenges, generate strong buy-in, and mobilize people for action.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

The 6 Conditions Required to Scale a Creative Leadership Culture

Guest post by Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams:

We all look up to the great leaders among us—the men and women who seem to have a knack for creating inspiring visions of the future while building company cultures that bring out the very best in employees. And while individual leaders are key to an organization’s success, collective leadership effectiveness carries the day. This means that companies are poised for even greater success when they scale their leadership, that is, when they grow leaders throughout the organization and align them into a collectively effective leadership system.

Leadership is ultimately about scaling the capacity and capability of an organization to create outcomes that matter most and to fulfill the vision of its desired future. However, the ability of an organization to scale its leadership is in great degree limited or enhanced by the dynamic between the two most common kinds of leaders revealed by our many years of research: Reactive and Creative.

Reactive leaders emphasize caution over creating results, self-protection over productive engagement, and aggression over building alignment. These self-limiting styles overemphasize the focus on gaining the approval of others, protecting oneself, and getting results through high-control tactics. Reactive leadership inhibits collective effectiveness and does not scale leadership.

Creative leaders, on the other hand, are less self-centric and are much more about developing the capacity and capability of others and the organization. They are approachable and skillful in working with people, listen well, build high-performing teams, mentor and develop capability in others, and empower their people. Creative leadership is built for scale.

To build organizations that are more agile, innovative, adaptive, and high performing in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world, Creative leadership is required. These new organizational designs simply cannot boot up on the Reactive Operating System most leaders are running.  Reactive leadership is, simply stated, inadequate to creating these kinds of cultures.

Leadership scales capacity and capability in others, through teams, and in the organization by putting in place these six conditions:

1. Creative leadership. This condition requires that the leadership system of the organization undergo a fundamental shift from Reactive leadership to Creative. Creative leaders inspire commitment and loyalty to the organization and its mission. They also build an open, honest, authentic, optimistic, generative, and innovative culture where the best ideas can emerge, be implemented, and where everyone is encouraged to develop.

2. Deep relationship. Scale requires being in deep relationship based on the firm foundation of trust, transparency, and honesty. Great leaders foster deep relationship. It is foundational to courageous truth-telling, getting the best thinking on the table, and innovating creative solutions to challenging problems.

3. Radically human. Leaders who scale leadership start with themselves. They let go and then learn out loud (publicly) while embracing the vulnerability of not knowing. This requires more than simply learning new skills. It requires maturing in the inner game of leadership, which requires a profound shift of mind and heart.

4. Systems awareness. Highly Creative leaders think “big picture.” They see and design systems for higher, more durable, and more agile performance in a fast-changing world that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Design is the primary determinate of performance.

5. Purposeful achievement. The very best leaders call us, individually and collectively, to a higher purpose. They inspire us to give our discretionary energy to a cause greater than ourselves. Being driven by purpose, they turn that purpose into a clear, lofty, strategic vision that translates into strategy and execution.

6. Generative Tension. Tension is a component in each of the conditions for scaling leadership. Generative Tension is the gap between our aspirations and our current reality. Great leaders cultivate this tension at every level. They establish it by committing to what matters most, and by fiercely and compassionately telling the truth about current situations.

The seeds of growth are buried deep within every leader, but this growth can’t occur without the right conditions and environment. It takes the right kind of leadership—Creative leadership—that can scale and grow as these organizations themselves scale and grow. Creative leaders get a large multiple on their leadership by developing and scaling leadership all around them.

By putting these six conditions into place, any leader in any organization can build and scale a Creative leadership culture—leveraging the tremendous benefits that are certain to be unleashed.

Robert Anderson is the founder, Chairman, and Chief Creative Officer of The Leadership Circle and Full Circle Group. William Adams is CEO and co-founder of Full Circle Group and CEO of The Leadership Circle. Together, they are authors of the books Scaling Leadership: Building Organizational Capability and Capacity to Create Outcomes that Matter Most (Wiley, 2019) and Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results (Wiley, 2015).