Blog

The Power of Empathy in Leadership

These days, we ask much of our leaders. Organizations and governments are under great pressures to perform, and these days leaders are responsible for crisis management during a pandemic with its attendant economic destruction and social and emotional anxiety. More and more we are realizing that empathy is a powerful aspect of leading well. Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from their frame of reference (i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another person’s position). Researchers have identified several types of empathy: Cognitive empathy is the capacity to understand someone’s mental state. Emotional

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The Importance of Integrity in Leadership

Leadership involves so many difficult challenges and exceptional behaviors and mindsets. These days, we ask much of our leaders. When I ask workers to quickly name the qualities that arise in their minds when they hear the word “leader,” I am instantly assaulted by a barrage of words: vision, charisma, confidence, clarity, responsibility, results, judgment, emotional intelligence, coach, and much more. What is the most important aspect of leadership? Have you thought about that? In my view, the most important aspect of leadership is integrity, because everything else leaders do flows from it (or its absence), followed by the courage to uphold it. Warren

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The Importance of Trust in Leadership

There are many ways to think about leadership. For some, as we have seen, it is about control or power. For others, it is about achievement or recognition. For others, thankfully, it is about people and service, along with higher purpose and positive impact. Since leadership by definition involves a relationship between leaders and followers—and, more precisely, an influence relationship—it begs the question of trust. One may be able to command, control, or deceive at some point or for some time, but for an enduring relationship of constrictive influence, trust must be present. Trust is a firm belief in the reliability or

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The Importance of Credibility in Leadership

Credibility: the quality of being worthy of belief and trust Credibility, which flows from character and competence, is one of the most essential aspects of leadership. High credibility is a tremendous asset for leaders seeking to achieve exceptional performance and positive impacts. Low credibility is devastating. Credible leaders are straight with people, even about hard topics. They walk the talk and practice what they preach. They do what they say they will do and follow through on promises. Think about what you have wanted from your leaders, parents, teachers, and coaches over the years. Think of the impact that credible leaders

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The Root Cause of Ethical Failings (and Our Political Dysfunction)

Scandals. Fraud. Abuse of power. Greed. Corruption. Tax evasion. Coverups. Once rare occurrences, coming back to haunt us every decade or so, these are now front and center in our daily lives and our daily news cycle. We see them in government, in business, and even in nonprofits and some religious organizations. It seems as if we are in a race to the bottom. While these challenges and failings have always been with us, we are not particularly well equipped to deal with them, in part because we fail to understand their root causes—and to hack away at them. Enter

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The Most Important Questions for Leaders

Leading others well can be a great challenge. It requires courage, judgment, wisdom, emotional intelligence, integrity, and much more. Leadership excellence comes with experience, but it begins with intentionality and commitment. Here are the most important (four) questions to help ground your leadership in a powerful foundation, whether you are a new leader learning the ropes or a seasoned leader looking to upgrade or renew. 1. Why are you leading? Is it for prestige? The title? Money? Power? Perquisites? Is it to prove something, or impress others? In truth, several of these may be drivers for you, but the key issue is whether

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The Problem of Bad Leaders – and Why People Keep Following Them

With a pandemic and all of its attendant human suffering, with economic devastation and so much loss of livelihood and dignity, with painful but overdue and much-needed conversations about structural and systematic racial injustice and inequity, and with so much division, disdain, and distrust, we need good leadership more than ever. Not because it is a cure-all, but because it is a prerequisite for stemming the crises, healing the wounds, and getting us moving in the right direction. Not just leadership at one level, but leadership at all levels of society and organizations. Not top-down, but leadership all around. Yet

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CHRO – Become Your Organization’s Chief Culture Officer

Today’s Human Resources (HR) leader has a wonderful opportunity to make an important strategic contribution: Become your organization’s Chief Culture Officer. If your CEO already acts as the Chief Culture Officer, great. Then you can be his or her Chief Culture Execution Officer. But most CHROs aren’t that fortunate, and you may need some ammunition to persuade the CEO that focusing on building culture can be a source of competitive advantage: Researchers have found a “strong relationship between constructive organizational cultures and financial performance.” (Source: Eric Sanders and Robert Cooke, “Financial Returns from Organizational Culture Improvement: Translating ‘Soft’ Changes into

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Leading from Below

In our work with leaders across sectors and industries, we often get asked about how people can “lead from below”: how they can exert influence on the organization and its culture even when they do not have much (or any) formal authority, or when they work in middle management, or when they work for a bad or mediocre manager, or for a company with a toxic culture. The short answer: you can do much more than you think. Ronald Heifetz from Harvard has noted that, since we tend to conflate leadership and authority, even the idea of leading without authority can

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Personal Resilience and Self-Care in Hard Times

In times of great upheaval and uncertainty, we struggle to find ways to thrive despite the challenges. Much of this comes down to self-talk, self-regulation, and self-leadership—navigating our reactions to external events and ensuring that our inner voice does not undermine us amidst the difficulties. The toll of the pandemic is massive, from disease, suffering, death, and mourning to unemployment, financial stress, disruptions, and restrictions. The effects on our quality of life and inner state can be more profound than we realize. Stress, pressure, and fear—for ourselves and our loved ones—exact their price in insidious ways. But we humans are

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Sustainable Leadership on the 50th Earth Day

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, a day on which we honor our planet and recognize the importance of environmental stewardship and our mind-boggling interconnectedness. Since 1970, the world population doubled, from 3.7 billion people to 7.6 billion today. We have made great progress on some fronts, but not nearly enough. In our triple crown leadership model, there are three mains aims: excellent, ethical, and enduring. We define the latter one, enduring, as “standing the test of time and operating sustainably.” Sustainability can be defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to

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What This Pandemic Teaches Us About Business and Society

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, we must think anew and act anew.” –Abraham Lincoln As an insidious virus spreads around the world, we are wise to stop and ask: what can it teach us? Much, I think. One question I am drawn to lately is this: what does the pandemic teach us about the role of business in society? “This moment is the curriculum.” –Jon Kabat-Zinn First, some context. For half a century, an epic

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Five Words that Changed Me as a Parent

There I was, a new father, my wife and I blessed with a beautiful young daughter, before our second daughter came along. I had been awed at her birth, feeling the world move. Growing up, I had always hoped to have a family and be a father. I knew it would be a tremendous responsibility to be in charge of someone’s care. I knew it conceptually and thought I understood it but really had no idea whatsoever—no clue—until I became a father and experienced how magical, and sometimes how trying, it could be. I recall one day home alone with

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Leading in a Crisis

Today, we are all being tested greatly, and so it is with our leaders. Individuals, organizations, and systems are all under strain, with some facing overload. Here are several keys to leading well in a crisis. Radical Focus. When you are in a crisis, your immediate priority is survival. Crises require take fierce discipline in personal and organizational time management. Leaders should expect to use more “steel” (hard-edged leadership) than “velvet” (soft-edged) at the outset. In a crisis, leaders must mercilessly cast aside all manner of ideas and projects—some with real merit—to ensure a tight focus on one or two key

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Avoiding Breakdowns

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”-Ernest Hemingway in A Farewell to Arms In leadership circles, too often the focus is on success principles for effective leading. That is all well and good, but often it can be more helpful to tackle things from the other perspective: what causes leadership to break down (and what can we do to avoid breakdowns)? First, there is a connection between personal breakdowns among leaders and the breakdowns of their organizations. Here we reflect on both. Personal Breakdowns“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”-Ovid, Roman

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