Article: "Leaders often fail due to isolation and inability to learn"

Leadership

"Leaders often fail due to isolation and inability to learn"

Robert S. Kaplan about building a leadership pipeline, his latest book, "What you are really meant to do", and more…
"Leaders often fail due to isolation and inability to learn"

Your book "What to ask the person in the mirror" is about the critical questions a leader needs to ask himself. What leads to the conceptualization of the book? Why is good leadership so scarce despite being so widely talked about?

I wrote this book to emphasize that leadership is more about asking the right questions than having all the answers. Leaders must learn to frame issues, debate and discuss and then make decisions. It involves working with others and learning to step back and reflect. I also wanted to emphasize the importance of articulating a clear vision with priorities----then focusing on aligning the organization and your leadership style to the vision and priorities.

What are the three most important steps that a person needs to take to become a more effective leader?

First, you have to do an assessment of your own strengths and weaknesses. You have to understand your own passions. Then, you need to figure out how to match those skills and passions to adding value to others. Armed with those three steps, leaders learn to figure out what they believe (usually by asking questions and listening) and then acting on those beliefs in a way that adds value to others.

What are the three things which could prove to be deterrents for a person in his/her leadership journey?

Leaders often fail due to isolation and inability to learn. They fail to understand themselves and where they organization is out of alignment----this failure can be due to an inability to ask questions and be open to learning.

How does a leader's personality impact organizational and individual effectiveness?

Each person is different. Each person needs to develop a leadership style that fits them but also fits the needs of their job.

You talk about a deep bench being vital for leadership succession? How does a presence or a lack of a deep bench impact organizational excellence? If you believe my premise that a leader needs to ask questions and learn from others, then who is he or she going to learn from?

You need a team of strong performers. A lack of bench/talent will normally undermine the effectiveness of a leader and the organization. You can't do this alone.

Few organizations are able to develop an effective succession plan. When it has been repeatedly proved that succession planning is effective to sustained success, what is that stops them?

Great organizations learn to do this. Insecurity is one big reason why leaders fail to develop successors---they think they are making themselves indispensable. In reality, lack of succession undermines leadership effectiveness. Great companies train leaders to connect the quality of their team with their own success.

How do leaders impact organizational ethics? In the wake of the recent corporate crises what are the five things that leaders could have differently done in order to avert those?

Leaders must articulate a clear vision for how the organization adds values to others. They must set the tone and be role models for ethical behavior. In recent crises, leaders sometimes articulated money rather than adding value as the aspiration. When a leader sends this message, it may suggest that money comes ahead of doing the right thing.

Your latest book, "What you are really meant to do" is about recognizing your unique strengths and working towards reaching your unique potential. Why is it important to find one's unique potential?

Every person is different. Great companies help employees learn to take ownership of their skill development and reach their own unique potential versus creating a cookie cutter career path. When people can be themselves and be at their best, the company will perform better. This is about owning your own development but also taking ownership of the company.

At the middle management level experience is generally valued more and organizations tend to look at prior experience while hiring for a particular role. A person who has spent 10 years in HR realizes that operations is what he enjoys, how does he make that shift when hardly anyone is willing to give him the opportunity?

You have to make a compelling case why the shift fits your skills and passions. You may need to have enough passion to be willing to take a step back in order to eventually move forward. The sooner you make the shift the better----it will be easier to make the case and the step back may be less painful to stomach.

Should HR managers be looking at assessing people potential for hiring, promotion and development as compared to past performance in order to achieve organizational effectiveness? If yes, what will be the best way to make that shift?

Leaders need to look at several factors. Past performance is one factor----but you have to know the person well enough to gauge their future potential. There's no substitute for getting to know a person.

What are the three most important questions that organizations, individuals and leaders need to ask themselves to identify their unique strengths and attain their potential? Do you seek coaching? Does the organization encourage blunt and direct feedback? Are employees encouraged to take ownership of understanding their strengths and weaknesses?

This is about processes but it is also about mindset.

Robert S. Kaplan is the Martin Marshall Professor of Management Practice in Business Administration and Senior Associate Dean for External Relations. He is also co-chairman of Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, a global venture philanthropy firm, as well as chairman and a founding partner of Indaba Capital Management LLC.

Topics: Leadership

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