Frei, Frances & Morriss, Anne. (2020). Unleashed – The Unapologetic Leader’s.   Cambridge, MA:  Harvard Business Review.

Short Version:  It’s not about you, it’s about them.

A Guide to Empowering – Everyone Around You. Many years ago, I read a book by Lynch and Kordis titled, The Strategy of the Dolphin. It was recommended by my friend Bruce Wellman.  The premise was that dolphins could swim in the same waters as sharks because they outsmarted the sharks.

Sharks only know one way to deal with life. Straight forward and attack.  Knowing this, dolphins swim around the side and smack the sharks in the ribcage.  Ah, dolphins have flexibility.  The authors posit that when dolphins are present, good things happen around them. If you want to know if there are dolphins in your organization, watch what happens around them.

Later I read a book by Marshall Goldsmith, the number one business coach ten years in a row.  Read a summary of his best-selling book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, at https://learningomnivores.com/what-were-reading/got-wont-get-2/.

He states it is not the motivational, charismatic leader that is the best leader.  It is what happens around leadership that increases the value of the organization.  Who are these people in your organization? Marshall said, and I paraphrase, ‘nobody got better because of me, the coach.  They got better because of what the leader did and the people who are doing the work.’

Frei and Morriss take a similar view about leadership. It is NOT ABOUT YOU.  It’s what happens around you that makes you, as a leader, valuable.  In other words, ‘get over yourself.’ What can you, as a leader, do to accelerate learning and systems that will result in better outcomes for the people, the organization, and the company?

Some great questions the authors start with:

  • Are your teammates and colleagues better off when you’re around?
  • Are they more productive and more engaged?
  • Are they more willing to innovate and take smart bets?”

Then they provide ten signs a leader might think it is about them. Take the inventory to see if you believe some of the same myths.

The authors then discuss trust.  In my opinion trust is the social lubricant that make things work more efficiently. People tend to trust you when they think they are interacting with the real you (authenticity), when they have faith in your judgment and competence (logic), and when they believe that you care about them (empathy).

As always beware of confirmation bias that might lead you to supporting your ow view.  You think you know, do you really?  Have you asked people?  Who can you get accurate feedback from? Who will tell you the truth?

Escobar argues that a higher-skilled and more resilient workforce may be the fastest path to a future where we trust each other.

  • Drop the script. Make sure you’re not emphasizing logic at the cost of authenticity.
  • Give us the “why” What drives you to do what you do every day?  What has called you to the practice of leadership? 
  • Learn in public. At some point, it became a false badge of honor to think something and never waiver from the thought.  Give yourself the freedom to update your point of view based on new information or experiences.  A great thing about authenticity is that it’s crazy infectious.
  • Build a team. Authenticity is not a solo sport. 
  • Focus on unleashing other people. Remember what you came to do as a leader: empower other people, in both your presence and your absence.

How do leaders create a sense of belonging? Read my summary of Inclusify by Stefanie Johnson.  https://learningomnivores.com/what-were-reading/inclusify/

It is rife with ideas about how to include a diversity community to get the best thinking and results. One headline is that true inclusion, not just diversity, will help you solve those business problems faster and better. Our goal is to help you empower teams that excel, not in spite of their differences, but because of them.

I found this interesting. Ten Signs Your Organization Is Stalling

  1. A task force has been assigned to the problem.
  2. You are being thanked for your time and effort.
  3. People doubt whether the organization (really) has a problem.
  4. You’re asked to respond to the grave concerns of unidentified critics.
  5. The specter of “legal issues” is being invoked.
  6. Your colleagues point out all the other things that are changing.
  7. You keep hearing about a future state where the conditions for change will be much, much better.
  8. The timeline for action is growing.
  9. Your colleagues think they can wait you out.
  10. You keep hearing, “We’ve already tried that.”

Can anyone relate to this list?  I can.

Step one:  Attract and select diverse talent.

  • Recruitment has two parts to it attraction and selection. Attraction means the ability to create outside interest in working at your organization. There is a list of suggestions in the book.
  • Selection means the ability to choose the best employee from a slate of qualified candidates.

Step two:  Make sure everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive.

            The opportunity to thrive has two practical drivers: a culture that values inclusion and widespread access to development opportunities. A culture of inclusion has four levels: safe, welcome, celebrated, and cherished. Formal development programs can help address these dynamics and increasingly there are ways to do it without breaking the bank or distracting people from their day jobs.  Individual impact still mattered, but just as important was how much someone contributed to other people’s success.

Legacy is important. “A” leaders create impact that endures days, years and even decades after they’ve left the room.

Many organizations are dealing with how to attract, sustain, and retain talent.  Think about it this way.  Leaders are working with volunteers.  Your best people do not have to work with or for you. So, what will attract and keep them.  I, Bill, believe it is the newest best perk for retention.  Build a culture where people feel a sense of belonging and want to give their best every day.  “A” players attract “A” players.

Culture establishes the rules of engagement after leadership leaves the room; it explains how things are really done around here. What is more important, growth or excellence?  Action or analysis?  Being direct or saving face?  Strategy drops hints, but It’s culture that has answers.

What is culture? My friend Richard Sheridan, CEO Menlo Innovations, has a mission statement:  To end human suffering due to technology.  Neeleman at JetBlue has a  mission to “bring humanity back to air travel.” If your ambition as a leader is maximum impact, then learn to become a culture warrior.

Great employees want to work in environments where their values are aligned with their employer’s, and they are increasingly vocal about demanding it. As you develop your intuition, here are some conversational entry points that we’ve seen work:

  • How well do you think our culture sets people up for success?
  • Are there ways that it also undermines their effectiveness?
  • Have any of our values or commitments to each other become “empty” or even “weaponized”?
  • How aligned is our culture with our current challenges and opportunities?
  • What do we need to change culturally to achieve our most ambitious goals?

There are many more suggestions to build the right culture in this book.  As always, italicized phrases are direct quotes from the book.

Learning Omnivores reads a lot, so you don’t have to read as much.