Learning to be a better leader

Do you find that your role as a leader getting tougher and more complex each year? If so, take some comfort in knowing that you are not alone!

Since leaving my role as Assistant Dean at the LBJ School of Public Affairs nearly two years ago and starting Uncharted Leadership USA, I have actually accelerated my work in the leadership development field, both in the US and in several countries around the world, and I want to share what I have been learning with you.  In return, I hope you will share with me what you have been learning in your practice of leadership.  

This periodic newsletter is about your leadership development: upcoming leadership development opportunities, articles that you might find of interest, books I would recommend in the leadership field, an “executive presence tip of the month,” and occasional surveys to capture your best lessons/interests in leadership.  It is organized in a way to help you scan it quickly to focus only on the items that are of interest to you. Let me know what you think and what changes would make future issues more useful for you.

Useful Resources

“Achieving Leadership Leverage in a VUCA World.”

Duke University 2017

If your job getting tougher and more complex, the white paper by Duke University will help you understand why.  To quote the article, “Today’s organizations were designed to operate well in a world that no longer exists.”  If you work in a public sector organization, that probably comes as no surprise! The article suggests some ways to develop “VUCA-ready” leadership.  Because of the pace of technological change, more than 2/3rds of business leaders believe that the next three years will be more critical for their industries than the previous 50.  Other key ideas in this article:

  • Leadership must ensure that organizations become more adaptive to unforeseen deviations from expected norms.
  • The same core capabilities that we developed to maximize operational effectiveness have instead become core rigidities that limit our ability to sense and quickly respond to shifts in the external marketplace (environments).
  • In their efforts to close this widening gap, many continue adjusting the organizational structure, systems and process levers that worked in the past…..an astounding 96% of organizations today are in some phase of transformation…and the unfortunate reality is that most of these initiatives fall flat in terms of delivering better performance and capturing the desired value.
  • The real leverage lies in cultivating agile leadership systems – developing a perpetual state of readiness for the unexpected, and knowing what people, process and technology levers to pull at the right time to synchronize with an increasingly unpredictable environment.

“Navigating a World of Disruption”

McKinsey’s Executive Briefing to the World Economic Forum, January, 2019.

 An interesting article by (arguably) the world’s top management consulting firm.  But these global trends are really only applicable to global corporate organizations, right? Ha! “For business leaders, policy makers, and individuals, figuring out how to navigate these skewed times may require some radical rethinking.” This briefing note focuses on both the value-creating opportunities and the intense competitive and societal challenges we all face.  It is divided into three sections: the first looks at the accelerated disruption; the second details the increasingly skewed impact of that disruption; and the third offers some ideas of what a more sustainable and inclusive society might look like.  Key ideas in this article:

  • The disruption is intensifying globally, shifting the center of economic gravity east and south, propelled by high-growth emerging economies;
  • Aging populations are forcing developed regions worldwide to rely more on waning productivity and greater migration to propel growth;
  • These forces are creating a growing gulf between those embracing change and those falling behind;
    Automation and Artificial Intelligence adoption will bring transitions that require changes in occupations and new skills and the dislocation may affect wages;
  • Environmental stress is increasing, with implications for the most vulnerable countries, industries, and people.

Book Review

“Mindset: The new psychology of success,”

Carol Dweck, 2007

This book has been around a while but if you have not yet read it, get it. If you have children or grandchildren or supervise others, read it.  Dweck shows how almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities.  Learn how we might, unintentionally, encourage a “fixed” vs “growth” mindset in our children, employees, and ourselves.

Executive Presence Tip of the Month.

[In addition to subject matter expertise, organizational acumen, and higher-level thinking skills, effective executive leadership requires the sometimes hard-to-define practices and skills that are embodied in ‘executive presence.’   Executive presence is an elusive concept, but we know it when we see it….and one can grow her executive presence.]

“Be on time.” 

Be on time for meetings, returning emails, returning calls, handing in assignments, responding to rsvp’s.  Being on time enhances your credibility, and as former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan said, “The first ethical choice you will make is to be on time.” Set a goal to purposefully and consciously ‘be on time’ for all manner of things over the next two weeks.

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