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Leading Off
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It's impossible to know exactly how much has changed in little more than a year of a pandemic that seems to have blurred time itself. No doubt you've learned new leadership and coping skills that you'll carry into a next normal. No doubt you've also relied on tried-and-true approaches to support and help those you lead. Looking ahead, one thing we do know is that employee relationships with bosses and supervisors will be the top factor in worker satisfaction. This week, let's gather experts and review the bidding on how to help you be the best leader you can be going forward.
To lead best, mind yourself
Do you have leadership heroes? While role models are important, it's not enough to rely on the characteristics, behaviors, and actions of exemplary leaders when taking on complex challenges. Rather, the key to guiding teams and organizations toward positive change starts with understanding your own attitudes and mindsets and how they drive old and new behaviors. In this classic McKinsey article on leading at your best, you'll find five simple exercises that can help you recognize—and start to shift—the mindsets that will help you achieve your potential as a leader.
That's the number of triggers that Stanford professor Bob Sutton found most likely to lead you off the path toward being a better leader and onto the road to becoming a jerk. In this interactive cautionary tale, see the negative effects that can come from hanging around a lot of jerks—from wielding power badly to always being in a hurry to missing out on sleep and other possible pitfalls present in the daily grind of business.
“In this new age of being masked … we now have to use our voices more liberally than ever.”
That is voice and dialect coach Denise Woods on the importance and challenges of becoming effective communicators at a time when we are so often masked—literally or in virtual gatherings. In this interview, she offers tools for leaders to articulate clearly, become powerful public speakers, and gain confidence. While you're at it, sharpen your listening skills with another classic perspective from McKinsey's knowledge archives.
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“Maybe the concept of teaching leadership is at odds with how adults learn.”
So says Claudio Feser, McKinsey senior partner emeritus, in this podcast interview. Feser and expert associate partner Nicolai Nielsen focus on the critical behaviors required to build leadership skills—behaviors that can only be learned in practice, not in a classroom. The task, then, for aspiring leaders, as well as those trying to develop future leaders in their organizations, becomes coaching, mentoring, and supporting needed prospective leaders so that they learn and turn those experiences into skills. Listen and learn what management expert Henry Mintzberg meant when he described leadership as a bit like swimming: ultimately, you have to get in the water.
Grow, grow, grow
photo of a person grieving
Sorry to say it, but millions of years of evolution have shaped our brains with energy-saving but imperfect behavioral shortcuts, like loss-aversion reflexes that bias our choices. Such routines can blind us to valuable personal-growth opportunities. But, write the authors of “Understanding the leader's ‘identity mindtrap’: Personal growth for the C-suite,” it is possible to use the principles of adult learning and development to achieve a more expansive view of your organization, help you recognize your potential as a leader, and improve the odds of seizing that potential. Once you've climbed out from under that evolutionary boulder, it's also possible to shape your innate ability to learn “intentionally,” further improving your efforts at leading better for yourself and those you look after.
Better yourself to lead better.
— Edited by Bill Javetski, an executive editor in McKinsey's New Jersey office
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