Leading Blog


Full-Spectrum Thinking

Full Spectrum Thinking

FULL-SPECTRUM THINKING is not common, and never has it been. And as the world becomes more complex, confused, and scrambled, it has never been more critical. Bob Johansen describes full-spectrum thinking as “the ability to seek patterns and clarity across gradients of possibility—outside, across, beyond, or maybe even without any boxes or categories—while resisting false certainty.”

In Full-Spectrum Thinking, Johansen writes that “the future will punish categorical thinking but reward full-spectrum thinking.”

The future will be a global scramble that will be very difficult to categorize. You will need a full-spectrum mindset to have any hint of what is going on. The scramble will be fraught with toxic misinformation (not necessarily intentional), disinformation (intentional), and distrust. In this future, it will be very dangerous to fit new threats or new opportunities into old categories of thought. Fortunately, new spectrums of thought will become possible in new ways over the next decade. Full-spectrum thinking will be required in order to thrive.

Full-spectrum thinking (FST) combines the “nuances of the analog world with the power and scale of digital.” I like that.

FST is critical thinking that moves beyond binary, simplistic, categorical thinking. It’s questioning assumptions, stereotypes, and categories. Mindless categorizing is harmful and requires very little thinking. It’s dismissive. They create certainties that block us from seeing possibilities. They are, in a word, constraining. Johansen is not against categories “if they are fair and do no harm. All of us need to create structures and categories of some kind that work for us and for others.” He adds, “Rigid categorial thinking is a bad habit we need to break.”

Rigid categorial thinking leads us to certainty, which Johansen and others have declared is the opposite of clarity. And in a narrow sense, I think that is true. Certainty without humility almost certainly, will lead to a lack of clarity. Certainty can blind us to reality—clarity—since we only see things from our own certain perspective. FST demands that we question and take a wider, more inclusive view of the issues before us. But there is a certainty that guides us to clarity and causation and keeps us from adding categories, confusion, and complexity where there are none. And we see that happening all around us.

Johansen spends a good deal of the book applying FST to the future of business, technology, our lifestyle, and our sense of meaning. He noes that a forecast is to be evaluated on “whether or not it provokes a better decision in the present.” Adding, “Strategy lives between insight and action” and “every good strategy is based on a compelling insight.”

Most companies think in terms of Now, Next, Future. Johansen advises us to shift our strategic orientation to Now, FUTURE, Next. Most of our attention should go to Now. But in a highly uncertain future, we need to look to the future (10 years ahead) for clarity then come back to Next to act in the now.

Johansen looks at business development. “Think beyond products. Think especially beyond commodity products where competition is based only on price.”

Organizations of the future will move beyond command-and-control to the U.S. Army’s practice of commanders intent or “direction is very clear; execution is very flexible.”

Leaders will still be a source of clarity, but the leader will not always be on top. The source of clarity should be grounding, and it should flow up and out across the network.

In an interesting chapter on Human-Machine symbiosis, he reimagines the human resources function. Perhaps we need to refer to it as Human-Computing Resources because humans are increasingly augmented by digital resources.

Human resource professionals will need the ability to better understand the capabilities of nonhuman and computer-augmented talent. Intelligent coworkers with powerful digital augmentation will be everywhere.

Collective intelligence—humans working together, augmented by machines—will be required to thrive.

And this. As video gaming as a learning medium becomes more widespread, human resource practitioners will need to be “experts in the medium of immersive learning through digital and in-person experiences.”

Categories themselves will also become “more fluid and cross-spectrum” as opposed to being binary—in or out. “Diversity will become more important even as it becomes more difficult to categorize.”

Creating or finding meaning will become a growth industry. From faith springs hope. Faith has the power to shape our future.

Faith grows out of a learning mindset. Faith allows you to navigate your way through things you don’t have all figured out. Faith helps you make your way through fear. Faith is grounded in a sense of humility and openness to learning in an uncertain future. Faith implies a full-spectrum mindset.

Rituals and habits help to create meaning. “Rituals are a condensed code of meaning, and repeating the code [like saying “I love you” every day] reinforces the meaning.”

Johansen believes that true digital natives (24 or under in 2020) are very good at full-spectrum thinking. “The true digital natives will challenge the social order.” Of course, every generation of young people challenges the social order whether they were brought up on video games and digital content or not. He points out that, “Kids are born with full-spectrum thinking, but adults, schools, and society often force it out of them with education, testing, technology, and culture.” How true. The difficulty for digital natives (like the rest of us) is not relying on soundbites and headlines to form our opinions. Most young people question the status quo and defy categories placed in front of them (or on them) by others. However, they also need to learn to express their thoughts and challenges in an emotionally intelligent way.

Full-Spectrum Thinking does make you stop and think about the categories, boxes, labels we place on people and things. We need to learn to think deeper and broader about the issues before us. It is a valuable and cautionary book.

Full-spectrum thinking will provide powerful ways to make sense out of new opportunities without assuming that new experiences mirror old categories, boxes, labels, or buckets. Full-spectrum thinking will help people avoid thoughtless labeling of others. Full-spectrum thinking will be a technology-enabled antidote to polarization and simplistic thinking.

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Ten Leadership Skills You Need 5 Leadership Literacies

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Leading Thoughts for August 6, 2020

Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:


Alan Weiss on the fact that most fears are learned as are leadership behaviors, and we have to understand the causes:

“We cannot create improved behavior contingently, that is, simply patching up leaks and putting on band-aids. We have to prevent the fearful behavior in the future by eliminating the probable causes. The therapist’s admonition to “face our fears” is really an attempt to find the cause of them.”

Source: Fearless Leadership


Brian Resnick on what is reality:

“Our brains work hard to bend reality to meet our prior experiences, our emotions, and our discomfort with uncertainty. This happens with vision. But it also happens with more complicated processes, like thinking about politics, the pandemic, or the reality of climate change.”

Source: “Reality” Is Constructed By Your Brain. Here’s What That Means, And Why It Matters

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Look for these ideas every Thursday on the Leading Blog. Find more ideas on the LeadingThoughts index.

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

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Innovation is Everybody’s Business

Innovation is Everybodys Business

EVERYONE has ideas. Innovation is within each of us. We just need to unlock it. Many of us have experienced negative reactions to our ideas and so tend to hold back sharing new ones. If we are going to be an innovator, we need to have a healthy relationship with change. Change is an opportunity to innovate.

Tamara Ghandour defines innovation as “thinking differently about what’s right in front of you to create an advantage” in her book Innovation is Everybody’s Business. There are opportunities in the functions we perform every day. People at all levels of an organization see things differently and can add value to an organization through innovation. Innovation is not for a select few.

To help us ignite the innovative mindset that exists inside of all of us, Ghandour has identified nine styles (or triggers) of innovation that relates to how we approach innovation. (You can discover yours by taking the Innovation Quotient Edge (IQE) assessment on her website. The assessment identifies your top two innovation styles and your single dormant trigger.) I believe, like any of our behavioral proclivities, these triggers are not set in stone as they are not part of our DNA, but preferences that we have developed over time. Nevertheless, these styles are helpful for understanding how we approach and think about and execute on ideas, and importantly how we relate and respond to others based on differences in approaches.

“Much like the difference in your overall personality,” Ghandour writes, “you have a unique way of innovating. In fact, there are nine distinct styles of innovation. They show up in your personality, preference, work style, behaviors, and actions.” The nine triggers are:

Innovation CollaborativeCollaborative
As a Collaborative, you create intersections of randomness by constantly tapping disparate people and ideas. You are motivated by making connections.

Innovation ExperimentalExperimental
As an Experiential, you think in motion bringing ideas to life by leaping the chasm from theory to reality. You are motivated by building something.

Innovation FluidFluid
As a Fluid, you turn ambiguity into clarity. Uncharted territory becomes your path to new ideas. You are motivated by creating clarity.

Innovation FuturisticFuturistic
As a Futuristic, you always think about what’s next. Tomorrow’s possibilities energize you, not today’s challenges. You are motivated by future plans.

Innovation ImaginativeImaginative
As an Imaginative, your vivid mind constantly creates new things. You turn wild thinking into real-world ideas. You are motivated by ringing novelty.

Innovation InquisitiveInquisitive
As an Inquisitive, curiosity defines you. You recognize that innovation is in the questions, not the answers. You are motivated by uncovering things.

Innovation InstinctualInstinctual
As an Instinctual, you tap the more intuitive part of the mind. You connect the dots in new and meaningful ways. You are motivated by finding connections.

Innovation Risk TakerRisk Taker
As a Risk Taker, your adventurous spirit likes to take bold action. You willingly pursue unproven yet high potential ideas. You are motivated by bold opportunities.

Innovation TweakerTweaker
As a Tweaker, you look for ways to improve and change. You reserve judgment an allow ideas time to grow. You are motivated by problem-solving.

Identifying and understanding these innovation triggers not only helps you to see what gets your creative juices flowing and ignite your innovative flame, but it also helps you to know how you come across to others. That’s very helpful when it comes to presenting your ideas and working within teams.

For example, if one of your two predominant innovation triggers is Risk-Taker, your communication style is declarative and opportunistic. Your language reflects words like “I, me, daring, impact, change, disruptive, I challenge, why not.”

It is difficult to make the connections necessary for innovative thinking with the stimulus we receive every day. Our minds react by filtering out what doesn’t fit with what we already know or think. Ghandour offers some tips to help us overcome this confirmation bias.

1. Play your own devil’s advocate.
2. Pretend you are walking in someone else’s shoes.
3. Ask yourself what else could be true.
4. Actively take in alternate perspectives.

In addition, she offers this constructive advice: Calm the lizard brain down by letting it know the analysis is coming after you innovate. Don’t sabotage your ideas by jumping to judgment too quickly. There’s a time for that. Let your mind explore the possibilities, then do a reality check.

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Getting Ideas to Flow Culturematic

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:01 PM
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First Look: Leadership Books for August 2020

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in August 2020. Don't miss out on other great new and future releases not listed here.

9781260460018The Creator Mindset: 63 Tools to Unlock the Secrets to Innovation, Growth, and Sustainability by Nir Bashan

Creativity isn’t a “nice to have” leadership trait. It’s the key to success in every workplace and all industries. Learn to access yours, now―even if you don’t think you’re a “creative” person. From B-school through the big leagues, the business world often places value on logic and analysis. But on creativity? Not so much. And this, according to Nir Bashan, is a recipe for disaster. What gets the ball rolling when we’re feeling stuck in our careers? Why is my company not growing or reaching higher levels of profitability? What’s the difference between a workable plan and a stroke of genius? The answer is creativity―and it’s the missing ingredient for far too many of us who feel we’re not reaching our creative potential (or doubt we have it in the first place).

9780525509189Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World by Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin D. West

Bullshit isn’t what it used to be. Now, two science professors give us the tools to dismantle misinformation and think clearly in a world of fake news and bad data. Misinformation, disinformation, and fake news abound and it’s increasingly difficult to know what’s true. Our media environment has become hyperpartisan. Science is conducted by press release. Startup culture elevates bullshit to high art. We are fairly well equipped to spot the sort of old-school bullshit that is based in fancy rhetoric and weasel words, but most of us don’t feel qualified to challenge the avalanche of new-school bullshit presented in the language of math, science, or statistics. In Calling Bullshit, Professors Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West give us a set of powerful tools to cut through the most intimidating data.

9781683646051Radical Alignment: How to Have Game-Changing Conversations That Will Transform Your Business and Your Life by Alexandra Jamieson and Bob Gower

Why do so many organizations, teams, couples, families, and groups who should be working together end up wasting energy on unproductive conflict? Even when everyone has the same general goals, what’s often missing is a deeper alignment based on mutual trust, respect, and empathy. With Radical Alignment, top-level life and business coaches (and happily married couple) Alexandra Jamieson and Bob Gower share their potent method for helping groups to stop clashing and start working together―to jump from “we can’t” to an enthusiastic “hell yes!” The essential tool at the heart of Radical Alignment is the All-In Method: a four-step approach to communication designed to increase clarity, minimize miscommunication, honor each person’s individuality, and build a shared sense of trust and respect for long-term success.

9780385541824Grasp: The Science Transforming How We Learn by Sanjay Sarma with Luke Yoquinto

A groundbreaking look at the science of learning—how it's transforming education and how we can use it to discover our true potential, as individuals and across society by a renowned MIT professor. As the head of Open Learning at MIT, Sanjay Sarma has a daunting job description: to fling open the doors of the MIT experience for the benefit of the wider world. But if you're going to undertake such an ambitious project, it behooves you to ask: How exactly does learning work? What conditions are most conducive? Are our traditional classroom methods—lecture, homework, test, repeat—actually effective? And if not, which techniques are? Along the way, Sarma debunks long-held views (such as the noxious idea of "learning styles"), while equipping readers with a set of practical tools for absorbing and retaining information across a lifetime. He presents a vision for learning that's more inclusive and democratic—revealing a world bursting with powerful learners, just waiting for the chance they deserve.

9781633696020Humanocracy: Creating Organizations as Amazing as the People Inside Them by Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini

In Humanocracy, Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini make a passionate, data-driven argument for excising bureaucracy and replacing it with something better. Drawing on more than a decade of research and packed with practical examples, Humanocracy lays out a detailed blueprint for creating organizations that are as inspired and ingenious as the human beings inside them. Whatever your role or title, Humanocracy will show you how to launch an unstoppable movement to equip and empower everyone in your organization to be their best and to do their best. The ultimate prize: an organization that's fit for the future and fit for human beings.

97812502681742030: How Today's Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything by Mauro F. Guillen

The world is changing drastically before our eyes―will you be prepared for what comes next? A groundbreaking analysis from one of the world's foremost experts on global trends, including analysis on how COVID-19 will amplify and accelerate each of these changes. Once upon a time, the world was neatly divided into prosperous and backward economies. Babies were plentiful, workers outnumbered retirees, and people aspiring towards the middle class yearned to own homes and cars. Companies didn't need to see any further than Europe and the United States to do well. Printed money was legal tender for all debts, public and private. We grew up learning how to "play the game," and we expected the rules to remain the same as we took our first job, started a family, saw our children grow up, and went into retirement with our finances secure. That world―and those rules―are over.

For bulk orders call 1-626-441-2024

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Build your leadership library with these specials on over 32 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

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“Reading is the nourishment that lets you do interesting work.”
— Jennifer Egan

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Whats New in Leadership Books Best Books of 2019

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LeadershipNow 140: July 2020 Compilation


twitter Here are a selection of tweets from July 2020 that you don't want to miss:

See more on twitter Twitter.

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Personality Isnt Permanent Unleashed

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Leading Thoughts for July 30, 2020

Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:


Jocko Willink on subordinating your ego, building relationships, and winning the long game:

“Ego is like reactive armor; the harder you push against it, the more it pushes back. You might be afraid that if you subordinate your ego, you will get trampled. But that normally doesn’t happen because subordinating your ego is actually the ultimate form of self-confidence. That level of confidence earns respect. So while the initial thought or feeling might be that you backed down, you have actually shown you have the strength and confidence to give the other person credit, and they will recognize and respect that confidence, either consciously or subconsciously.”

Source: Leadership Strategy and Tactics


Writer Ralph Marston on the power of confident humility:

“Whatever you’re doing, a sense of superiority will make you worse at it. Humility, on the other hand, will make you better. The moment you think you’ve got it all figured out, your progress stops. Instead, continue to advance and improve by reminding yourself how much more there will always be to discover. Confidence is positive and empowering, but arrogance is deadly. Be confident, but not at the expense of your respect for others.”

Source: Blog Post Confident Humility

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:37 PM
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The 9 Strategies of Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

Leading with Feeling

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE is a prerequisite to good leadership. To attempt to lead without it is self-serving. It may get the job done, but it’s all about you. It’s not the kind of leadership that brings others along.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is an awareness of not only our own but other’s emotions and the ability to manage those emotions in ways that help people move ahead in dealing with difficult situations.

In Leading with Feeling, Cary Cherniss and Cornelia Roche worked with 25 leaders to analyze how they actually used their EI to deal with challenges and build relationships with others. They observed abilities and competencies common to leaders who have EI. Breaking that down from a practical perspective, they were able to outline nine practical strategies for understanding and developing EI.

The first two strategies provide the foundation that the other practices build on. One must first acknowledge the emotional climate they are dealing with. And this not really a once and done step. It is ongoing as emotions change over time.

1. Monitor the Emotional Climate

Most of the outstanding leaders were not just aware of their emotions or skillful in identifying what emotions other people were experiencing. They actively looked for subtle signs of emotion in order to influence the course of events. It was an active, purposeful process, and when they detected a potential problem, such as discouragement among the top management team spilling over and infecting the rest of the employees, they took action.

This is not to say a leader succumbs to the same emotions, but awareness allows them to deal with the situation more effectively.

2. Express Your Feelings to Motivate Others

Knowing your own feelings allows you to manage them and present them constructively so that you set the right tone. In my view, wearing your emotions on your sleeve is not appropriate for a leader.

Leaders ideally should maintain an even keel in order to help others manage their own emotions. In short, it is usually better for leaders to express emotion but maintain control.

In one example, “Yolanda did not try to minimize the emotions stirred up by this situation. She actively engaged with those emotions and with those who were feeling them. She allowed herself to feel the emotions and then used the emotions to guide her own actions.”

3. Consider How Your Own Behavior Influences Others’ Emotions

This is a critical component of self-awareness and emotional intelligence. It is not a manipulation to understand that our words and actions can dramatically impact the emotions of our team for better or worse. For instance, “when leaders become angry, they tend to discourage their subordinates from sharing valuable information with them” to their own ruin. It behooves any leader to take measures and a thoughtful approach in anticipating what their team needs.

4. Put Yourself in Others’ Shoes

Emotionally intelligent leaders try to gain the perspective of others to get a fuller take on the situation. It leads to better decisions. Doing this is best done face-to-face.

All people like to be respected and understood. An awareness of their experiences is a show of respect and gets to not just the how but the why of people’s feelings. This strategy helps to increase empathy “which contributed to better relationships, but it also contributed to better analysis and action.”

5. Use Your Understanding of Emotion to Figure Out the Underlying Dynamics of a Situation

What are their feelings telling us? There is often more to a person’s emotions than what we see on the surface or the emotional dynamics of the situation. This is important to decipher organizationally before implementing a change program.

6. Reframe How You Think About the Situation

It is critical to remember that “the way in which one thinks about people and situations affects the way in which one manages emotions.”

We found that the leaders in our study reframed the way they thought about emotions in five different ways:

  1. They expected the world to be complicated and messy
  2. Rather than playing the blame game, they looked at factors in the situation that might be causing, triggering, exacerbating, or maintaining a problem
  3. They adapted an inquiring mindset
  4. They managed their emotions and those of others by focusing on the task at hand
  5. They tried to adopt a more positive mindset when faced with challenges

Adopting an inquiring mindset also can help us to use other reframes. It helps us to appreciate just how complicated and messy the world is, and switching from a “judging” mindset to an inquiring one can help us avoid the blame game.

7. Create Optimal Interpersonal Boundaries

Consider managing emotions by modifying the situation by creating more rigid or more flexible boundaries around the topics people discuss or the boundaries between you and others. Leaders in the study “often established, maintained, or tightened boundaries in order to mitigate disruptive emotions. However, they also loosened boundaries, which encouraged the expression of positive emotions, to facilitate the development of better relationships with peers, employees, bosses, or clients.”

8. Seek Out Others for Help in Managing Emotions

When it comes to managing emotions, the nest leaders value the help of others in the form of advice or simply sharing the emotional burden. “It turns out that seeking out and using the help of others is often the most emotionally intelligent thing that a leader can do in critical situations.”

9. Help Others Develop Their Emotional Intelligence Abilities

Emotionally intelligent leaders also coach others in the management of emotions. Most often, this is done one-on-one to raise awareness with a colleague. Coaching others in this way requires control over your own emotions, sensitivity, and the ability to create an atmosphere of trust.

These nine strategies are not linear. We tend to use some strategies more than the others. You will return to strategies 1 and 3 over and over again. It is not a science but an art.

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Power of Framing Contagious You

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Unleashing the Potential of Those You Lead


WHAT happens after you show up as a leader? Does the performance and potential of the people around you improve? In other words, it’s not about you.

In Unleashed, Frances Frei and Anne Morriss want to change the conversation around leadership development from a focus on the leader to a focus on the people they are leading. And rightly so, because as they point out, the most important thing you can do as a leader is to build others up.

To that end, they want to define this aspect of leadership as “empowering other people as a result of your presence—and making sure that this impact endures even in your absence.” Their point being that leadership really isn’t about how amazing you are, but how effective you are at unleashing other people. It is in that context hat they want us to look at leadership.

I should note, however, that as a leader, self-improvement should be undertaken with a focus on the impact it has on those one is leading. The only way to improve the lives of those around us is to improve ourselves. It was Marie Curie that wrote, “You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.”

Most leadership literature has this focus—at least implied. And it should go without saying that if one is thinking about how to improve the performance and potential of those they lead, it will improve your leadership. They go hand in hand. The impact of your self-improvement on others is the yardstick of its value.

That said, there is an undue focus on the self in all of us. Although that affects everything we do, it’s not a leadership problem; it’s simply a human problem. But to be an effective leader, we must shift our focus off of ourselves. As the authors point out, “If you seek to lead, then your focus—be definition—shifts from elevating your self to protecting, developing, and enabling the people around you.” But often, we become focused on being seen as leaders than simply leading. Leadership makes us vulnerable as it exposes who we are.

That’s the irony of many of the tactics we use to protect ourselves as leaders. They can backfire and undermine the perceptions we’re working so hard to cultivate. In order to look like leaders, we end up behaving like smaller, two-dimensional versions for ourselves. We obscure the parts of ourselves that real leadership demands, cutting off access to our full humanity. In the choice to insulate ourselves from the judgment of others, we disconnect from leadership’s core mandate to make those very same people better.

Over and over again, you just can’t get away from the fact that effective leadership is built on humility.

The authors are emphasizing what they call empowerment leadership. And this approach takes you outside yourself and creates a full-time job out of understanding and showing compassion and concern for those you lead.

Only when you can imagine a better version of someone can you play a role in helping to unleash them. If you don’t have confidence in someone’s growth potential, then you can do many things with that person, but leading isn’t one of them. You can oversee, supervise, govern, persuade, and endure them. You can get through the day and instruct then to do things.

This kind of approach is too often what we see being practiced and called “leadership.” Real leadership leads into the potential of others.

To illustrate their point, they created the Rings of Empowerment Leadership. At the core is trust. “Trust creates the conditions for others to be guided by you.” They explain, once you build trust, you then “create a context where people around you can thrive.” And to create a context where teams thrive requires that you champion the differences of each member.

Rings of Empowerment Leadership

These first three competencies require that you be present for the action and limiting your influence. “The most successful leaders are influencing people far beyond their direct reach and are intensely aware that success depends on what happens in their absence. Which brings us to the outer rings of our model: strategy and culture.”

From here, Frei and Morriss take us through each ring to develop the competencies and the mindset to become more empowering leaders.

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Might Be All About You Lift

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