Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership2012
We are in the midst of a profound shift in the context in which leadership takes place and in what it takes to flourish as a leader. The World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership was convened to create an in-depth dialogue about the extent and likely impact of these changes. This is a diverse Council representing leaders from various industries and members from leadership development within corporations, academia, non-governmental organizations and sports authorities.
Over a six-month period in 2011-2012, Council Members met in Abu Dhabi and Davos, as well as virtually, to discuss and agree on a collective view of a new model of leadership. The model presented in Figure 1 describes the Council’s collective assumptions about new models of leadership:
- There is a quantum change in the context in which leadership is taking place. This emerging context is defined by significant demographic and societal changes, fundamental technological advances and continuous globalization, as well as complex multistakeholder issues and resource scarcity
- These changes are opening up a new leadership space that contains tensions and balances. This space can be defined by a leader’s profound sense of purpose, which can be described in three ways: through the emotional capacity of the leader (values, courage, self-awareness, authenticity); by their intellectual and cognitive development (creativity, innovation, world view, systems thinking); and by the extent and depth of their social relationships and networks (community building, alliances, collaboration, virtual worlds).
- Developing this new leadership space will require a profound leader journey. At the heart of this journey is an inner and outer journey. The inner journey describes how the leader learns through reflection, mentoring and practice. The outer journey describes the crucible experiences in which leadership is forged and includes challenge, risk and working at the “edge of the system”.
In describing in more detail this diverse and complex model, we have chosen to highlight each element with a brief thought piece by Council Members. By doing this, our hope is to create a space for more conversation and debate.
In the final section of this discussion paper, we debate the impact this new model could have on a number of stakeholders in leadership development including corporations, education institutions and civil societies.
Professor of Management Practice, London Business School, United Kingdom
Chair of the Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership
The Quantum Change in Leadership
The context in which leadership is taking place is going through a quantum change, which will profoundly impact the challenges leaders face and indeed on the aspirations, competencies and attitudes of success. In Part 1, we discuss the key elements of this changing context.
Part 1 opens with a piece by Dan Goleman, who uses his insight into the development of emotional intelligence to think about the new challenges leaders face. He argues that resource scarcity is creating profound challenges for leaders. His view is that this puts ever more pressure on how a leader manages in a complex, interdependent world; deep experiences of living outside one’s comfort zone will be crucial.
We then take a look at the changing technological context. From his vantage point in Silicon Valley, Max Levchin describes how social media is creating a new transparency. He argues that this broadens the leader’s communication platform, shortens the feedback loops and creates profound opportunities for leading by example.
Part 1 finishes with a piece by Jasmine Whitbread about what it takes to lead in the kind of world that Goleman and Levchin have described. As Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children, Whitbread is well versed in the challenges of leading in complex and daunting situations.
Acceleration of World Challenges
We are in the midst of a “great acceleration” where the rates of deterioration in all the global systems that support life on the planet increase at ever-heightening vectors. The best known is global warming – e.g. in the decades ahead, what we have been calling “heat waves” will become the average temperature, with heat waves at 5°C higher than that in the next few decades. But the biggest acceleration is in the nitrogen cycle, where the green revolution’s ample use of chemical fertilizer creates run-off algae blooms that peak out and leaves “dead” water in rivers, lakes and seas. Then there are the particulate clouds hovering over much of India, China and other places, which cause upwards of 2 million needless deaths per year. The daily activities of industry and commerce in the richer world create disproportionate suffering in the poorest parts.
The environment represents just one system in which we are likely to see massively disruptive events over the not-too-distant future. The economic, social and political domains may well see disruptions that challenge the assumptions of present systems. In short, leaders will likely face a radically altered world in which to operate.
Impact on leadership models: Our leadership models understandably focus on capabilities for meeting present needs. We now have an opportunity to look ahead at what tomorrow’s leaders will face and what strengths they will need. Given this, for instance, I see the merits of a particular spin to the systems thinking and pattern recognition competence, one that synergizes with other leadership abilities like self-confidence and sensitivity to one’s surrounding.
We will need leaders with a dual capability of attention: alert to subtle, telling signals as well as a larger systems awareness. The steady signals of the environmental meltdown have been ignored by leaders who have failed to rise to that challenge, just as the early signals of market meltdowns in the mortgage bubble, and now in Greece and Italy, were discounted by leaders who failed us.
The leaders we need will get beyond such shared blind spots, and exhibit a willingness to search out and acknowledge the limits of systems rather than simply being a smart operator within them. It also means taking a larger view as a leader: making decisions that consider the many, not the few; and for the long term, not just the present. Tomorrow’s leaders will need to go beyond the limits of the systems within which we operate today to see what those systems might become.
The Leaders Journey: What life experience might foster such emotional intelligence plus cognitive flexibility? I can think of at least two kinds. One is stepping outside one’s comfortable life – living abroad on a shoestring, for example, or otherwise getting to know reality on the fringes, as Otto Scharmer has described. Living in a culture different from our own surfaces hidden norms, and lets us see our own culture through the lens of other eyes. That’s good practice for analysing any system. And living on the cheap strengthens our own adaptability and makes us more comfortable with the unknown and with risk.¬
Another competence-builder might be a period of social service, that is, diving into a role where others’ needs come first rather than just looking out for Number One, such as working for an NGO in the poor world. Still, a third would be an experience that requires taking a contrarian, sceptical position – standing up for a minority view – although the specifics of this learning elude me just now.
The New Transparency
Social Media and the New Connectivity
Among the most powerful influences on the changing context of leadership is social media. The decentralized, contributory model of information gathering and dissemination is fundamentally changing the level and pacing of transparency.
At their scariest, Twitter, Facebook and their international equivalents offer no more than a few moments between a single false communication uttered in the most private of settings and the public dissection and summary judgment that inevitably follows. At their best, a powerful single-sentence notion repeated by the few in the morning is driving a veritable crowd (constructive or otherwise) frenzy by evening. These extremes highlight the velocity of information dissemination and the level of public scrutiny a leader should expect as the boundary between their private and public personas fades away.
Pragmatically, this new transparency creates an enormous opportunity to be leveraged in building new, dynamic channels of communication and influence to one’s constituency.
Social media offers leaders the chance to communicate from a platform where their constituents are effectively their peers. It is an opportunity to pull back the curtain, to connect with their audiences directly and to be human, emotional and vulnerable. It is a chance for leaders to earn the trust of their charges by being and communicating among them.
Feedback loops are being shortened from days to minutes. The conversation is changing from a one-way, one-shot interpretation by a professional, but ultimately disenfranchised news reporter, to a dialogue with deeply motivated, passionate participants. Social media offers a chance to create and curate the image of a leader in a deeply authentic way. It creates an opportunity for a leader to speak with a single, honest voice, connecting with their critics, debating with their doubters and personalizing their message in a meaningful way.
This creates a constant opportunity for leaders to lead by example. I believe this is the most important advantage in this emerging social media world. While chances for missteps abound, the opportunities to display grace, clarity and integrity in action make the associated exposure worthwhile. Handling a global crisis or calming down one angry constituent does not offer much in the way of “testing the message”, but when this is effective it can create the visible, public standard for others to follow.
What is clear is that social media is rapidly eliminating any notion of physical boundaries, distances and time zones. Leaders must expect to be translated, examined and re-tweeted wherever their relevance extends. This means there is limited opportunity to craft and execute a country-by-country strategy. In the context of this new world, all communications must be assumed to be public, while the information consistency does not have language barriers. The opportunities this presents to leaders are awesome. They have the chance to deliver a unified message to all their constituents and to open a feedback channel that creates an opportunity for them to become more understood and, potentially, more trusted.
One of the aspects that generated great interest at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012 in Davos was on the kind of leadership that is needed in multistakeholder collaboration to tackle the big issues like poverty.
I have learned a lot about this in my time at Oxfam and Save the Children. When I first switched sectors and moved to Senegal (from Boston where I was working for Thomson Financial), I found myself sitting in the Dakar Education for All conference in 2000, in a ballroom full of representatives from NGOs of all shapes and sizes indulging, as I then thought, in a chaotic airing of views of what had to change to reach a mindboggling 120 million children then out of school. This was far from the analytical, process-driven, project-managed, tightly-budgeted approach to leadership I was used to in the private sector. Frankly, I doubted its efficacy. For a start, who was in charge? But less than a decade on, the number of children out of school had dropped by nearly half. This could never have happened without that coalition for change.
Today, the people involved are more likely to be in a virtual room and are more likely to include business leaders, who strengthen these types of alliances. Technology means more people can be involved more meaningfully and more consistently instead of a select few going from meeting to meeting. The evolving corporate social responsibility agenda means more companies see the big issues as squarely part of their mandate.
There are now dozens of these multistakeholder initiatives; part of the leadership nous is backing the one where you have the greatest potential to achieve the biggest impact. For Save the Children, we are investing in a growing coalition to stop children dying from preventable causes. Like “education for all”, this is at once a modest and massive proposition: modest in that it is shocking that a child dying every 4 seconds is still tolerated in this day and age, does not require anything more sophisticated than an increase in well-equipped, well-trained frontline health workers, and would only cost US$10 billion to fix (less than 10% of what the globe spends on bottled water a year); massive in the level of cross-sector collaboration required to get this done in a sustainable way. This needs companies and governments as much as civil society and UN efforts.
This can be a daunting challenge with everyone coming from a slightly different perspective and no one in change. The leadership posture needed to make a decent fist of this is not an easy animal to describe, but you know it when you see it – a curious mix of audacity and humility, patience (with process) and impatience (with outcomes), tight on principles and loose on control. The good news is that over the last 10 years it is not just me who has learned a lot – many leaders have their own experiences of working in these types of collaborations and have figured out what works and does not work, including the next generation of future young leaders.
We need this experience and new enthusiasm to kick in fast to ensure the last few years of campaigning are focused on the current set of Millennium Development Goals. And we need to tap into this wider leadership in agreeing to the next set of “big issues” that need to be agreed post-2015. Unlike the last set of goals, which were largely created in the UN, the next set will be created by multistakeholder collaboration. As long as we can prevent a watering down of goals or accountability, a wider and joint leadership effort to improve the world has got to be a good thing.
The New Leadership Space
We see at the heart of the new leadership model a space in which the leader has developed skills, competencies and attitudes. As shorthand to this, we have described this in three ways:
Emotional aspects – by which we mean empathy, social-awareness, altruism, mindfulness, learning from failure and critique.
Social aspects – by which we mean the creation of ecosystems, the building of deep relationships and strong links to the community; the foundations of these social aspects are building networks and engaging in deep collaboration.
Intellectual aspects – by which we mean deep mastery, creativity, innovation, passion and a worldview; at the centre of these three aspects is the purpose that brings energy and focus to the leader.
The discussion begins with Ralph Krueger and his piece on purpose. As the coach to the Canadian ice hockey team, he has first-hand experience of what it takes to create a strong sense of shared purpose. He believes that a sense of purpose is crucial to the leader – flexible enough to adjust to changing circumstances, and that challenges, difficulties and uncomfortable circumstances are clear signs that a purpose exists. Purpose flourishes when teams are able to work collaboratively, and flounders when it is driven by ego; the sense that “me” outweighs the sense of “we”.
Mario Alonso describes the emotional aspects of leadership. He has spent most of his career as a medical doctor and cares deeply about the psychological aspects of leadership. He speaks of the leader’s inner journey and the psychological insight and self-knowledge that is so much part of the journey. He also speaks of the importance of silence, of facing our demons and of becoming authentic through self-knowledge.
There are two pieces on the intellectual aspects of leadership. We begin with Yoshito Hori who has built the Japanese business school GLOBIS. He describes the skills and attitudes he believes are most crucial to the new leadership model, and then shows how practices such as reading philosophy and the presentation of personal resolves are used at GLOBIS to build these skills. Nick Udall explores ego-development – from a conventional, objective and fragmented view of the world, to a more post-conventional, subjective and interdependent view of the world. As a change agent and adviser to chief executive officers, he has seen how egocentric views of the world have worked to the detriment of leadership.
Finally, Charlene Li, explores the social aspect of leadership, and in particular looks at how social media is shaping our concept of leadership. As the founder of Altimeter Group and an author on new technologies, she has seen at first-hand how the emerging leadership challenge is essentially one of establishing relationships with followers – both physical and virtual.
The Leader’s Sense of Purpose
A person who takes on the role of a leader, for a group or a team, must first have a purpose for his leadership role. One could say that a definite purpose is analogous to the fuel required to run an engine, where the engine is a team and the leader is the driver. The leaders own personal driving force in conjunction with the team’s common purpose act together to direct the team towards a common goal. For the leader, this means defining and refining “purpose” on two levels depending on results or circumstances. The guiding “purpose” must be a living entity, flexible enough to adjust to circumstances – both good and bad – and to changes in the environment of both the leader and the team. A “winning purpose” motivates and inspires the team to work together. Growth and development, learning and evolving, are the by-products of such a “winning purpose”.
The urgency of purpose is directly related to the current status of the individual or team. Teams living in “the protective bubble” of Western culture and affluence may be less inclined to be motivated than teams from underdeveloped countries. The motivation to fulfil the basic needs of existence is more urgent than being able to afford a second home. No matter what the discrepancy between the environments of two organizations, the principles that govern the establishment of a clear purpose should be the same.
An empowering purpose is akin to desiring to visit a new and exciting destination. If food is not a limited resource, then you cannot define your destination as avoiding hunger, although for many people in the underdeveloped world (and a minority in the developed world), this must be a priority. Once that goal has been reached, you must find a new destination. You know you and your team are without purpose if they begin a day, week or month without a clear challenge on their plate. Challenges, difficulties and uncomfortable circumstances are clear signs that a purpose exists. That the group is reaching beyond its current limits, as Robert Browning wrote, “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp”.
The key to successful collaboration is open and honest communication. If you are open to sharing your thoughts with other companies, countries or with the neighbours next door, then you are bound to receive from them in kind. Therefore, the leader who is willing to share his ideas, concepts or strategies will also receive the same from other leaders that he is collaborating with. This allows the leader to broaden his viewpoint and to enhance the tools available to him.
You need to be selfless to be a good collaborator. The price to pay to develop synergies with others is to park your ego for the good of the group. The successful leader is able to create a strong sense of “we” before “me” in his team and in collaboration with other teams. The exemplary leader strives to serve others.
An assembled team with the best laid plans, top talents, highest education and a deep desire to win cannot reach its potential if even one of its participants is driven by ego rather than cooperation. Understanding and implementing the power of collaboration or the sense of “we” before “me” has been and always will be a cornerstone of a successful
The Inner Journey
A leader is someone who dares to cross the threshold of one’s own doubts and fears. When we are trapped inside our comfort zone, the sense of security, familiarity and control that this comfort zone is providing us, prevents us from making courageous decisions and taking a step forward. Only those who find a strong enough emotional leverage will embrace that world which is outside their comfort zone. All personal growth takes place out of the comfort zone, but to experience this growth, we need to embrace the ambiguity, uncertainty and complexity that exist out of our comfort zone.
When despite the unpleasant sense of feeling lost, we keep walking inspired by our possibility and our dream, then transformation starts to happen in the same way as a caterpillar begins its transformation into a butterfly. When we get out of the comfort zone, we also enter a dark night, as the caterpillar needs to get inside the cocoon to allow nature to transform its own identity.
We find the emotional leverage that will support us in the middle of the unknown when we also find a true purpose and meaning in life. The purpose of a leader is to create change and one does it by imaging the world not as it is, but as it could be. A leader is focused to serve other people in a way that these other human beings start to unfold their true talents and capacities. It is by one’s way of being how the leader inspires other people to be their best. A leader becomes so by the beauty of his or her intention and commitment expressed in resolved action.
We all are born with the possibility of becoming a source of inspiration and support for other people, but very few among us have the determination, persistence and patience which are needed to tap into our true inner resources and unfold our natural capacities. The inner journey of a leader is the process through which one discovers not who one is but who one could be.
It is my experience that this journey starts with a new appreciation of the meaning of silence, because the only way to get in touch with our inner self is getting rid of the train of disturbing thoughts which break through our consciousness without our permission. We also need to have the attitude of somebody who acknowledges that one does not know but is committed to explore and learn. Without that humility, some of the mysteries of our true nature will not be revealed to us.
The inner journey is also asking from us generosity and a sense of contribution. We are embarking in this journey because we care not only about ourselves, but also about the positive impact that our personal transformation will have in other people. When we cross the threshold and leave our comfort zone, we need to have courage, confidence and faith that sooner or later something extraordinary will show up. It is in our inner journey when we come across our own shadows, the parts of us that we do not want to acknowledge and that we project on other people. When we face our demons despite our fears, we transform those demons into resources and as a consequence we become more resourceful.
Many people live in the hallucination that they can truly lead other people without being able to lead themselves and this is pure fantasy. It is much easier to try to change other people and not being willing to change ourselves. This exercise of authenticity is very much needed if we truly want to inspire, touch and move the brains and the souls of those around us.
Worldviews, Systems and Patterns
I believe that the New Leadership Model is a concept of essential leadership skills encompassed with a new mindset. I will try to explain my ideas by defining what I see as essential leadership skills and combining them with my new mindset.
I think that leaders need to have the following three essentials: business frameworks, conceptual skills and human skills. Business frameworks are the knowledge to understand complex management through viewpoints such as strategy, marketing and finance. Conceptual skills are the ability to analyse the situation and decide what needs to be done. Human skills are the ability to get people involved and lead them.
To become New Leaders, I believe that leaders who possess essential skills need to change their mindset to hold the following aspirations. These aspirations are commitments to enhance business skills, develop human networks and create a personal resolve. Enhancing business skills refers to continuous self-improvement to acquire and develop essential skills (business frameworks, conceptual skills and human skills). Developing human networks is an effort to expand your human capacity by doing small deeds that will eventually push you to the middle of the circle by positive encounters with the right people. Creating a personal resolve is finding a personal mission that you plan to achieve with all your life (we call creating a personal resolve “Kokorozashi” at GLOBIS). This mindset happens to be GLOBIS University’s educational principles. I have set the principle this way so that our students become visionary leaders who create and innovate societies in Japan and in Asia.
I propose two methodologies in pursuing this New Leadership Model. The first is to read philosophical books in a small group with a facilitator (we call this “Keiei Dojo Style” at GLOBIS). Leaders are asked to bring a one-page summary of their impressions, their need for improvement and their points of disagreement. By sharing these ideas, leaders find out about their strengths, weaknesses and shortcomings, and eventually acquire a mindset for developing themselves. The second is to ask each leader to present personal resolves in front of a group as one’s commitment in life.
A personal resolve would become real by putting it into words and actually declaring it in front of important people. Leaders can also get inspired by listening to other colleagues’ resolves that leads to upgrading their personal mission. I believe there are three core abilities for leaders
Business Frameworks: The knowledge to understand management that is complex and difficult to grasp – marketing, strategy, accounting, finance, human resource management, organization behaviour, operation management.
Conceptual Skills: The ability to analyse and decide what needs to be done – analyse and assess the situation, find problems, solve problems, strategic thinking (ability to formulate short-, mid- and long-term strategies based on vision and competitive strategies); identify and allocate management resources, sense of balance, big picture, prioritizing.
Human Skills: The ability to get people involved and to lead them – communication skills, persuasion and negotiation, strong passion (high-energy level), motivation, develop the abilities of subordinate staff members, leadership ability.
An Interdependent View
The profound shifts in context that leaders will increasingly need to traverse, and traverse skilfully, are, depending upon your worldview, opportunities to be embraced or threats to be minimized. Either way, they are unlikely to go away. We are living and working in increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous times – a VUCA world. We are just becoming increasing more sensitive to these phenomena.
Now, add into the mix the limitations of conventional strategic processes in building true competitive advantage and unique differentiation. Better positioning, better processes and better people are today’s table stakes. The only way to sustainably out compete is to out innovate and to out learn. More and more, this means innovating and learning across organizational boundaries whereby different leadership rules apply.
Add further to these challenges the growing number of problems that are becoming ever more omnipresent in our lives (e.g. climate change, poverty, water scarcity, food security). This is a true leadership dilemma as the people trying to solve these problems also created them in the first place; time is not on our side and we are in danger of making decisions that our future selves would not want us to make.
Adding further still to the shifting context in which leaders need to lead, we now need to learn to embrace technology as part and parcel of every problem and every solution. Technology has stepped over the threshold of being just an enabler and/or way of measuring and monitoring change. Instead, it has become a catalyst of quantum change – where the real-time, non-linear and embedded dimensions of an ever increasing interconnected world will continue to lead, with intent and/or by accident, to the amplification, acceleration and cross-pollination of sea change across complex ecosystems and the wider social systems of which we are a part.
One further example, of many other possible examples, of the shifting context of leadership is how creative talent and Generation Y are becoming ever more vital ingredients in helping leaders and their organizations traverse these shifting sands. Creative talent and Generation Y naturally move towards meaning and purpose. But they also have an innate ability to wander in the unknown, to get lost and have the presence of mind to stand still and allow the new to emerge. Furthermore, they also have a creative fire within them that is massively needed to fuel change, innovation and transformation. So leaders need to learn how to tap into this creative fire and call it forth.
So how can leaders of all kinds embrace these profound yet subtle shifts and help shape futures fit for generations to come?
The ancient saying – “as within, so without” – comes to mind, for conventional models of leadership have themselves reached a ceiling. Without the emergence of new leadership models (and more importantly new leadership practices) that understand that mechanical and Newtonian worldviews are no longer full representations of the world in which we live, we will remain stuck, banging our heads against the ceiling – where the ceiling is actually getting in our own way and arguing for our own limitations.
Instead, new leadership models and practices are needed to help us step over a critical threshold from a personal, organizational and societal point of view. This threshold has been referred to by some as a threshold of ego-development – a movement from a conventional, objective and fragmented view of the world, to a more post-conventional, subjective and interdependent view of the world. Either way, it is only an internal worldview shift that can enable, or more accurately allow, new external possibilities, resources, innovations and pathways to become knowable and available to us. It is this threshold that new models of leadership need to illuminate, challenging leaders to muster the humility, energy and wisdom to step forward and over.
There are many clues that already point to new models of leadership. And, as is often the case, some of the pieces of the puzzle have been under our nose the whole time. To some extent it is not what the new models of leadership are that are the issue. Rather the challenge is how to reveal the subtle skills and complex capacities that are available on other side of this threshold, and how to teach them in weeks or months, not years. Time is of the essence.
The Leader’s Journey
What can be the journey that would prepare a leader for the inner and outer challenges we have described? In Part 3, we discuss the key elements of this changing context.
The designer John Maeda takes up Mario Alonso Puig’s reflections from Part 2 and considers what it takes to go on this inner journey. His experiences of becoming the president of the Rhode Island School of Design create a backdrop against which he explores his own journey. What is fascinating about this is the echo of Puig’s ideas of self-knowledge. By facing his shortcomings and failures and confronting his doubts, Maeda describes what the leader’s inner journey meant to him.
Our thoughts about the leader’s journey finishes with Otto Scharmer, who considers the leader’s journey and the thresholds they are required to cross. As a professor at MIT, Scharmer has spent decades working with leaders to support them on their journey. He believes that leaders are required to cross the threshold between themselves and the edge of their system, and by doing so to expose themselves to situations very different from their normal life. The second threshold is an inner one, understanding themselves and their work. The third threshold is to create and hold a space within their core group or organization.
The Inner Journey
Reflection, Invention, the “Edge” of Self
To quote my esteemed colleague, Dr Mario Alonso Puig: “When we embrace a difficult situation as if we’ve chosen it ourselves, we transcend our mental limits.”
I believe that this phrase, “mental limits,” captures the epitome of the “inner journey” of the leader. It is one with clearly delineated boundaries that are completely sufficient under normal conditions, but leaders rarely need to lead under normal conditions. It is when the conditions are unpredictable and uncertain when leaders are fully tested. It is then when the leader’s own physical, mental and emotional limitations get tested in ways often talked about by Dr Marshall Ganz of Harvard University who asks:
- Do I have the skills necessary to navigate this challenge (“the hands”)?
- Do I have the ability to resource an approach to this challenge (“the mind”)?
- Do I have the emotional strength to withstand this challenge (“the heart”)?
Ganz says that the third question is the one that presents the greatest challenge to a leader, and I have to fully agree from my own experience. Or, as serial entrepreneur Ben Horowitz puts it so well in his popular blog post, “What’s The Most Difficult CEO Skill? Managing Your Own Psychology”:
“By far the most difficult skill for me to learn as CEO was the ability to manage my own psychology. Organizational design, process design, metrics, hiring and firing were all relatively straightforward skills to master compared to keeping my mind in check. Over the years, I’ve spoken to hundreds of CEOs all with the same experience. Nonetheless, very few people talk about it, and I have never read anything on the topic. It’s like the fight club of management: The first rule of the CEO psychological meltdown is don’t talk about the psychological meltdown.”
As Horowitz rightly states, the doubts one has while being a leader is something you never hear about. In fact, you should not hear about it because we tend to want to think that our leaders are flawless and worthy of being followed. Yet, we live in a day and age where social media exposes all of the leader’s flaws with a 140-character post; where public dissention is not just a legal right, but now a societal expectation. The orderliness of the world is vanishing, and by the same token the many protective barriers that leaders once had surrounding them have begun to vanish as well. It is for that reason in my own work as a chief executive officer and president of a significant college in the United States, at the start of my journey I set out to blog and tweet publicly as much as possible about my own inner journey of trying to understand and learn how it feels and works to be a leader.
The results and reception, quite frankly, were mixed. On the one hand, we want to know what our leaders are thinking; on the other hand, when we get to hear how our leader thinks, we begin to wonder about the basic intent that grounds that kind of transparency. Questions range from the negative: Is it really him? Shouldn’t he be doing his work instead? Why isn’t he talking about what’s happening right now? What is he hiding behind this guise of transparency? To questions that are positive: Did you read what he said this morning? He’s going to address many things that I care about? Will he come to my event? Do you think more leaders will start blogging and tweeting like him?
I have learned first-hand the many advantages and disadvantages of sharing one’s leadership journey. I took it one step further by publishing a book with Becky Bermont based upon the many tweets I compiled during my first two years as leader of my institution entitled, “Redesigning Leadership”. The book was an honest recount of my many shortcomings and learning as a new leader, and the various failures I dealt with publicly — which underlie the many doubts that constantly confront me even today. It was received positively by some (i.e. “I’m glad to know how he really feels.”) and negatively by others (i.e. “Is this just a self-promotional stunt?”). Where there is no doubt, it is embodied in the confidence given to me by my Board’s recent unanimous vote to extend my contract. I know it to be an uncommon privilege to work for a Board that can champion such a kind of leader.
I believe that more leaders need to acknowledge their inner journey publicly for more leaders to grow. This does not necessarily mean using Twitter or other social media means, or else to write books about the unglamorous aspects of their inner leadership journey. By whatever option possible, if more emerging leaders could learn about the kind of emotional challenges one accepts when becoming leader – in an age of transparency and scrutiny at scales never before imaginable – they might be better prepared. As someone who got his MBA to learn the basic skills of managing and leading (i.e. Ganz’s “hands” and “mind”), I was not prepared at all for the emotional challenges (i.e. Ganz’s “heart”) of being a leader. If more leaders were to come clean like Ben Horowitz, then I think that we will have a new generation of leaders that are better prepared for what lies ahead. Horowitz says it all here:
“If CEOs were graded on a curve, the mean on the test would be 22 out of a 100. This kind of mean can be psychologically challenging for a straight A student. It is particularly challenging, because nobody tells you that the mean is 22.”
In summary, the inner journey that leaders take needs to be shared within an honest, safe frame by which more developing leaders can feel greater kinship for their own failures and limitations. Certainly, we do not want an entire generation of leaders to falsely believe that 100% failure is fine, or that having public breakdown after breakdown is the noble path forward for society. But, we do need to more widely share aspects of leaders that demonstrate vulnerability as a kind of strength, inner doubt as a driver of personal growth and success as carrying an unspoken price that needs speaking. The inner journey needs to come out.
The Thresholds of the Leader’s Journey
The new leadership model requires leaders to engage in new work. Under the old leadership model, leaders relied heavily on the practices in the upper right quadrant. They then began to slowly branch out into the other three quadrants. However, these new focus areas of leadership (systems thinking, interior reflection, organizational culture and change) often developed as separate silos from the existing mainstream of management. The essence of the new leadership model is a mindful integration of the practices in all four quadrants.
The integration of all of these practices requires leaders to go on a leadership journey that crosses three thresholds. The first threshold is an exterior one: going to the edges of their own system, where the new shows up first. Leaders need to develop practices that expose themselves to the edges of their systems (example: stepping into the shoes and seeing the system through the eyes of the most disenfranchised communities).
The second threshold is an inner one: waking up to the deeper journey they are on in their own work and life. Leaders need to ask themselves: Who is my Self? What is my Work? The “Who is my Self” question refers to the leader’s highest future possibility. The “What is my Work” question refers to a deeper sense of purpose and source of energy. All great leadership starts with exploring these deeper foundations of one’s Leadership Presence.
Finally, the third threshold is to create and hold a space in which one’s core group or organization can go through the same process collectively. As leaders and communities of leaders move through this journey they realize that they can only discover their true or authentic self, when they immerse themselves deeply into the world, and they can only recognize what is truly wanting to emerge in the world, when their listening extends to the deeper levels of inner knowing.
The collective dimension of leadership requires leaders to think, sense and act beyond the boundaries of their own institutions. That is, to co-sense and co-create at the level of the whole ecosystem that their organizations are operating in. Corporate leaders need to think and act on the scale of their extended enterprise. NGO and government leaders need to think beyond the silos of their own traditional focus and geography. The biggest leadership challenges today deal with this contradiction between ecosystem reality and “egosystem” awareness. The leader’s new work is about helping people and communities to move from egosystem awareness (generating well-being of a narrow interest group) to ecosystem awareness (generating well-being of the whole). The process of moving from egosystem to ecosystem awareness requires a profound intellectual, emotional, and social journey – a journey to our real sources of presence and self
The New Model: Towards Leadership Development that Matters
What is clear is that this new model of leadership will require looking again at the context in which leaders typically develop. In this final section we look at three different stakeholders.
We begin with a piece by Carsten Sudhoff on the role of education. He argues that from childhood onwards the focus must be on building deep understanding of the connectivity between the individual and their world – to be reflective, self-aware and mindful. In higher education, this means integrating many different disciplines while in corporations it means building opportunities for out-of-comfort-zone development opportunities and social goals.
The next piece by Lynda Gratton takes some of these ideas forward by looking specifically at the role that corporations can play in the leader’s journey. As a professor at the London Business School, she has seen first-hand how corporations go about supporting the development of high potential people. Her argument is that corporations have historically been adept at supporting the “outer journey” through their capacity to deliver challenging, diverse work. However, their preference for choosing homogenous cohorts, creating extreme work pressure and focusing on power reduces their capacity to really support the “inner journey”.
Finally, Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli looks at the impact of civil society on the development of these new forms of leadership. As a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, she has seen first-hand how the world’s emerging leaders are seeing their role. In her view, civil society organizations are becoming ever more deliberate in their own development of leaders by creating a context in which they can flourish. They are also reaching out to other organizations to share their ideas and indeed to provide a context for development.
The Role of Education
Developing the Collective Dimension
Recent neuroscientific evidence shows that our thoughts, movements and body language have a direct influence on others, consciously or not. With the discovery of mirror neurons, science can today demonstrate how we are connected to the world and more importantly to each other. On the basis of quantum mechanical understanding, we know that we are all connected in a unified field – we are all cells in a larger organism – and what affects one affects all (“oneness”). The affairs of the mind and the affairs of the physical world are linked and consciousness can play a subtle role in the creation of physical reality.
Going forward it becomes clear that the education sector, from early childhood to executive education, will have to include this new reality in developing the collective dimension and indeed preparing leaders for the future.
Childhood Learning. It begins with childhood. A key role will be taken by parents and caregivers and the acknowledgement that their behaviours and incentives will influence the child’s ability and willingness to be reflective, self-aware and mindful of others. In close cooperation with the schools, parents will need to expose the child more systematically to a variety of learning opportunities tailored to nurture curiosity, agility and to deepen the child’s sense of collectivism and collaboration. While teachers need to be given the tools and techniques to navigate seamlessly between the emotional and the intellectual dimension, children will need to be given a chance to take an active role in their community, giving them first-hand experience of the benefits of collaborating with others.
Higher Education. Then higher education plays a role and will need to build on learnings previously provided by schools and focus on intellectual development as well as on the physical, psychological and emotional aspects. Cultural and personality traits and the understanding of psychometrics will need to become as much a permanent function of the learning curriculum as will be the case for the teaching of global interdependencies. The integration of humanities will complete the picture, no matter the core subject. The leadership curriculum in particular will need to be enhanced in the business realm e.g. by studying the business case behind social entrepreneurship; corporate social responsibility will have to become a standard elective. And real life project work should be structured and evaluated against the backdrop of their social and sustainable impact.
Learning in the Business. Finally, as employers are increasing their demand for candidates with a collective mindset and a proven track record of collaborating across boundaries, they need to work with the human resources at hand. Within the context of creating a culture of authenticity and fluidity, organizations will need to enhance their learning and development and performance management approach. While providing out-of-comfort-zone development opportunities and social goals to potential leaders they will need to measure more actively and consistently the person’s mindfulness with regards to resources, be it natural, financial or human. The potential leader’s ability to exhibit behaviour supporting the collective will have to be added to the criteria triggering the individual’s career advancement.
While the development of the next generation of leaders will require a significant reallocation of resources and alignment between all parts of the education value chain, it will lead to a generation of individuals who, rather than accepting life as it comes, will create their own reality.
The Role of Corporations
The Inner and Outer Journey
Corporations have and continue to play a key role in the journeys of many leaders. A glimpse at the emerging leadership cohort in India for example will show how many started their careers in talent rich companies such as Tata or Hindustan Unilever. The same is true of the US where it is said that more chief executive officers are GE graduates than graduates of the Harvard Business School. In Europe, the “talent factories” of Unilever, Shell and Nokia have had a profound impact on the lives of many leaders. When these talent factories are missing – as has historically been the case in China – then it can take decades to provide the context for development.
“Outer journey” corporations can be important “crucibles” for the leader’s outer journey in the following ways:
- Enormous talent nets: Multinational companies such as PepsiCo or BAT are able to search the world for young talented people. The distributed nature of their enterprise means that their brands are known in many corners of the world. As a consequence, highly talented people in far-flung corners of the world can potentially have a chance at leadership.
- Complex global tasks: Large, multinational companies tend to have complex structures that span countries and often across functions. These can provide extraordinary opportunities for people to learn how to operate in a complex stakeholder world. They experience working with other nationalities and with people from other functions. Many are also exposed to virtual working and social media.
- Cohort learning: Many corporations make significant investments in training their most talented people. This can create important learning opportunities and possibilities of working closely with other peers.
There is no question that well-run corporations are great at the leader’s outer journey, but what of the inner journey? My view is that typically the corporate environment can create the breadth of experience that enables leaders to learn how to manage complex stakeholders, or to build purposeful work.
The “inner journey” brings deep insight, which helps leaders discover their authenticity and provides the resilience so crucial for judgment under pressure? Here, I think the corporation is often a poor crucible for development. Here is why:
- Hyper homogeneity: Look around any high potential group and what is really striking is often how similar they are to each other. Often they are of the same nationality, but even if they are not they will have similar mannerisms, work styles, ways of looking at the world. Often, the selection process for high potential roles is so well tuned that it filters out any diversity. This hyper homogeneity rapidly leads to “group think” and also a certain weakness in spotting the counter intuitive
- Extreme work pressure: One of the defining realities of corporate life is the sheer and unrelenting pressure many potential leaders are under – constantly barraged by endless e-mails, spending weekends travelling, answering the phone throughout the night. These are all the symptoms of a globally connected world. This pressure affects personal life, making it more difficult to create deep relationships with others – be they friends, partners or children. The pressure also removes any of the opportunities for reflection and conversation that we believe is so important to the leader’s inner journey. So as the muscle of the “outer journey” becomes ever strong, those of the “inner journey” atrophy.
- Focus on power: In many corporations, the currency of leadership is power. It is positional power that creates the legitimacy for behaviours and provides the cover for action. Power is also a barrier to the open and deep feedback that can be so crucial to personal learning.
So while corporations can be crucial to providing the setting for the “outer journey”, I believe that a combination of hyper homogeneity, extreme work pressure and a focus on power makes them often times poor settings for the “inner journey”. Many of the executives tasked with leadership development within corporations are well aware of this challenge. They can see that too many of their current leaders do not have the authenticity and depth that will increasingly be important for the future. What is less clear is how this can be solved. Perhaps, as Jasmine Whitbread has suggested, leaders all need a time in the messy, ambiguous world of NGOs.
The Role of Civil Society
has experienced tremendous growth over the past 20 years, expanding in its scope, scale and influence. As change agents work to galvanize the masses of people around key issues such as youth unemployment, public health, democracy, and peace and security, passionate founders struggle to build institutions in the face of increasing pressure to become more transparent and accountable – there is clearly an urgent need for new models of leadership.
Within this context, civil society is promoting internal leadership by:
- Being more deliberate about grooming leaders: Civil society organizations (CSOs) are starting to nurture local approaches to social change, rather than relying on external implants. They are also promoting inclusive, collaborative representation by developing individuals who are capable of leading groups with diverse backgrounds, interests and communication styles. By investing in recruitment, training, mentoring, coaching and global staff exchanges with partner organizations, CSOs are working to ensure that they are better equipped to tackle some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity.
- Creating support structures and networks: Given the high rate of burnout among CSOs leaders, there is growing recognition of the need for support systems and structures to nurture these leaders.
- Investing in governance: The need to build strong boards composed of private and public sector leaders to enhance the diversity of ideas and ensure rigor, accountability, transparency and smooth successions, is crucial.
- Partnering with academia: It is important to conduct relevant research on best practices and develop appropriate training programmes
- Developing strategic partnerships with the private sector: This is key to ensure more rigor around measurement and evaluation, financial transparency and impact.
Civil society is also serving as a catalyst for leadership development in other sectors by:
- Holding more public and private sector managers accountable for transparent and effective leadership
- Supporting individuals who assume leadership roles
- Providing direct leadership training for teachers, youth, entrepreneurs, public sector officials and shaping leadership curriculum for all levels of education
- Conducting and disseminating research on leadership development and best practices to change mindsets and inspire action
- Recognizing and celebrating new models of leaders via awards and publicity in partnership with the media
Clearly, there are a broad range of approaches through which CSOs can support the emergence of new models of leadership. However, the impact of these efforts will only achieve sustainable results if there is a heightened sense of urgency about the need to drive change from within and greater collaboration within the sector and across sectors.
Mario Alonso Puig
Visiting Professor, Universidad Francisco de Vitoria, Spain
Certified Coach in Leadership and Professional Development, The Tavistock Institute, London, and in Psychological aspects of Leadership, Levinson Institute, Boston. Former Consultant in Surgery, Hospital Internacional de Madrid. Currently, Visiting Professor, Instituto de Empresa en Madrid and Universidad Francisco de Vitoria en Madrid. Medical Doctor, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, specialist in General Surgery. Fellow, Harvard University Medical School. Member: New York Academy of Sciences; American Association for the Advancement of Sciences. Visiting Lecturer: Center for Global Leadership, INSEAD; MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas; Universidad Pitágoras, Sao Paulo, Brasil. Author of: Madera de Líder; Vivir es un asunto urgent; Reinventarse: tu segunda oportunidad (Reinventing yourself: a fresh new opportunity). Expertise: medicine, neurosciences, mind-body medicine, stress management, personal leadership, creativity and innovation, team building, communication skills and coaching for leadership.
Co-Director, Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations, Rutgers University, USA
PhD in Psychology, Harvard University. Formerly: Visiting Lecturer, Harvard University; Science Journalist, New York Times. Author of books, including: Emotional Intelligence, Social Intelligence, Ecological Intelligence, Destructive Emotions, with Dalai Lama; most recently, Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence. Expertise: organizational leadership, education, and ecological transparency in marketplace and supply chains.
Professor of Management Practice, London Business School, United Kingdom
Professor of Management Practice, London Business School. Founder, Hot Spots Movement, dedicated to bringing energy and innovation to companies. Actively advises companies worldwide. Fellow, American Academy of Human Resources. Author of six books, including: Living Strategy; Hot Spots; Glow; The Shift (2011). Author of many articles, including for the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review and the MIT Sloan Business Review. Judge on the FT/Business Book of the Year award and Co-Chair of the OB faculty at London Business School. Awards: ranked by The Times as one of the top 20 Business Thinkers in the world today (2009).
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, GLOBIS; President, Globis University; Managing Partner, Globis Capital Partners, Japan
BSc in Engineering, Kyoto University; MBA, Harvard Business School. Formerly, with Sumitomo Corporation. 1992, founded GLOBIS; 1996, founded GLOBIS Capital Partners. Founder, Japan Chapter, Entrepreneurs’ Organization. 2005-08, Member, Harvard Business School Alumni Board. Former Member, New Asian Leaders Executive Committee, World Economic Forum. Member of the Board: Japan Association of Corporate Executives; Japan Private Equity Association. Featured on the cover of Forbes as one the most successful entrepreneurs in Asia. Author of blog, Views from an Entrepreneur. Author of several books including: Visionary Leaders who Create and Innovate Societies; Six Dimensions of Life; My Personal Mission Statement.
Head Coach, Edmonton Oilers, Canada
Played professional ice hockey in Germany for 13 years and from 1981-1986, for the German National Team. 1991-98, Head Coach, VEU Feldkirch, Austria, winner of the 1998 European Championship, 5 National and 3 Alpenleague Championships. 1994, founded the motivational speaking company Teamlife. 1997-2010, longest serving ice hockey national team coach in the modern era. Head Coach, Swiss Ice Hockey National Team at 2002 Salt Lake City, 2006 Torino and 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. Since 2010, Head Coach, Edmonton Oilers, National Hockey League. Author of the bestseller Teamlife: Over Setbacks to Success (2001).
Vice-President, Engineering, Google, USA
BSc, Computer Science, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. 1998, Co-Founder, PayPal, later selling it to eBay for US$ 1.5 billion. Chairman of the Board, Yelp. Member of the board, several other companies. Interests: road cycling, running.
Author and Founding Partner, Altimeter Group, USA
Degree (Hons), Harvard College; Graduate, Harvard Business School. Former Vice-President and Principal Analyst, Forrester Research and a consultant with Monitor Group. Founder, Altimeter Group. Expert on social media and technologies and a consultant and independent thought leader on leadership, strategy, social technologies, interactive media and marketing. Quoted by The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, Reuters and The Associated Press. Author, Open Leadership, a New York Times bestseller. Co-Author, Groundswell, named one of the best business books in 2008. Awards and honours include: 100 most creative people in business, Fast Company (2010); one of the most influential women in technology (2009).
President, Rhode Island School of Design, USA
iBachelor’s and Master’s in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, MIT, US; PhD in Design Science, University of Tsukuba Institute of Art and Design, Japan; MBA, Arizona State University, US. World-renowned artist, graphic designer, computer scientist and educator. Formerly: Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and Associate Director, Research, Media Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Since 2008, President, Rhode Island School of Design. Author of books, including The Laws of Simplicity, and Redesigning Leadership.
Ndidi O. Nwuneli
Founder and Director, Leadership Effectiveness Accountability and Professionalism (LEAP) Africa, Nigeria
Degree (Hons) in Multinational and Strategic Management, Wharton School; MBA, Harvard Business School. Founder, LEAP Africa. Co-Founder, AACE Foods. Director, Sahel Capital. Founder, NIA. Consultant: McKinsey & Company; Bridgespan Group. Pioneer Executive Director, FATE Foundation. Adviser to Nigerian Ministry of Education and Ministry of Youth Development. Recipient of numerous awards including: National Honour from President of Nigeria; MFR, Young Manager of the Year and Excellence Award, Harvard Africa Business Club.
C. Otto Scharmer
Senior Lecturer, Organization Studies, MIT – Sloan School of Management, USA
PhD in Economics and Management, Witten Herdecke University. With MIT: Senior Lecturer; Founding Chair and co-created IDEAS programme, seeking to help business, government, and civil society leaders to co-create innovation and systems change; Founding Chair, Cambridge-based Presencing Institute; consulted with global companies, NGOs and governments; co-designed and delivered award-winning leadership programmes for global organizations; introduced concept of presencing, learning from the emerging future, in books: Theory U; Presence, with both books translated into over 10 languages.
Senior Director, Chief Human Resources Officer, World Economic Forum
1989-91, degree in banking, Dresdner Bank, London; 1991-94, BA in Business Administration and Economics, American University of Paris; 1994-95, MBA, HEC, Paris; 1996-2008, with Daimler including: Logistics, Paris; Finance, Berlin; Human Resources, Berlin, Stuttgart and Beijing.
Chief Executive Officer, Nowhere Group, United Kingdom
Originally trained in product design at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication in London; 1996, Doctorate in Consciousness, Creativity and Community, University of Surrey. Former: breakdancer; DJ; designer; artist; research fellow; teacher. Has consulted with global corporation on visioning, creativity and design management. 1994, Co-Founder, Design Transformation Group, a community of international designers, artists, futurologists, educationalists, philosophers and consultants who were interesting in shaping the future business of design. Late 1990s, Co-Founder, nowhere, a community of creative-catalysts dedicated to releasing the creative potential of organizations and communities. Co-Author of Way of nowhere.
Chief Executive Officer, Save the Children International, United Kingdom
1986, graduate, University of Bristol, UK; 1997, Executive Programme, School of Business, Stanford University, US. Formerly: Managing Director, Thomson Financial business; six years with Oxfam, first as Regional Director, West Africa, then International Director. 2005-10, Chief Executive Officer, Save the Children, UK; since 2010, Chief Executive Officer, Save the Children International. Since January 2011, Non-Executive Director, BT Group.