Leadership development is one of the most crucial and challenging aspects of any organization. But most of the traditional methods and models are outdated and ineffective in the 21st century. That’s why you need to read Leadership Revolution, the groundbreaking book by Lori Mazan, the co-founder and chief coaching officer of Sounding Board. In this book, Mazan reveals an innovative and practical approach to developing dynamic leaders who can thrive in complex and uncertain situations. She also shares her insights and experience from coaching top executives and democratizing executive coaching through a cutting-edge scalable leadership coaching firm.
If you want to learn how to transform the next generation of talent into capable and productive leaders, you need to read this book. In this article, I will give you a summary and a review of Leadership Revolution, and show you how it can help you create a more interconnected, interdependent leadership culture in your organization. Keep reading to find out more.
Table of Contents
Nonfiction, Business, Leadership, Coaching, Psychology, Management, Organizational Development, Learning, Innovation, Change. Personal Development, Corporate Culture, Career Success
Leadership Revolution is a guide for leadership and talent development in the new era. It is based on the concept of vertical development, which is about developing more complex and sophisticated ways of thinking, greater wisdom, and clearer insights. It is different from horizontal development, which is about increasing technical skillsets and building the most important leadership competencies. Mazan argues that both types of development are important, but vertical development is often overlooked and neglected.
The book is structured like a coaching engagement, with three parts: clarity, challenge, and impact. In each part, Mazan explains the key concepts and principles of vertical development, provides examples and stories from her coaching practice and research, and offers questions and exercises for the readers to apply to their own context and situation. She also introduces three primary conditions that support vertical development: heat experiences, colliding perspectives, and elevated sense-making. These conditions help leaders to face complex situations that disrupt and disorient their habitual way of thinking, to expose themselves to different viewpoints and feedback, and to reflect and learn from their experiences.
The main idea of the book is that vertical development can help leaders to grow their capacity for change, innovation, transformation, and collaboration. It can also help organizations to bridge the gap between the executive and managerial levels, to diversify and revitalize their leadership pipeline, and to measure and cultivate their developmental and organizational impact.
I found Leadership Revolution to be a very informative and inspiring book. Mazan is a credible and experienced coach and author, who writes with clarity and passion. She draws on her own journey and stories, as well as the latest research and best practices, to make her case for vertical development. She also provides practical and actionable tools and tips for leaders and organizations to implement vertical development in their own context.
I think the book is very relevant and timely, as it addresses the challenges and opportunities of leadership development in the 21st century. It challenges the conventional wisdom and the common myths that we often hold about leadership and learning. It shows us how to be more adaptive and agile, while still being strategic and visionary. It also shows us how to be more collaborative and inclusive, while still being decisive and accountable.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to revolutionize leadership development and grow dynamic leaders in their organization. I think it is a valuable and enjoyable read that can help you achieve your leadership goals and aspirations.
Introduction: Learn the tips being taught by today’s best leadership coaches
Leadership Revolution (2023) explores the dynamics of executive coaching, and provides an overview of the challenges and opportunities in contemporary leadership development. It explains how today’s leaders must adapt to changing environments and cultivate a mindset of continuous growth and improvement.
What does it take to become a great leader? What qualities do the best leaders share? While these are popular, and reasonable, questions to ask, if you look at enough case studies, you’ll soon realize that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership.
This kind of insight is one of the benefits of Lori Mazan’s Leadership Revolution. Mazan is a seasoned executive coach, and has worked with a broad range of leaders, each with their own unique personality traits. While so many leadership advice books will try to squeeze everyone into an idealized mold, Mazan’s approach focuses on the individual and allows you to work with your own strengths. Great leaders don’t necessarily need to be energetic extroverts or intense, charismatic gurus. As we’ll see in the sections ahead, what matters more is how you approach the role and your willingness to think creatively.
Taking the first steps
Let’s start off by saying now is the time to abandon any ideas of a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership. A successful leader is an authentic leader, and anyone putting up a false front because they feel the need to conform to someone else’s definition of charisma is bound to come across as a phony. And phonies don’t have staying power. We see through these masquerades and no one wants to follow the lead of someone who’s putting on an act. After all, when things get stressful, your real personality is bound to show up.
The key, therefore, is to find a leadership style that authentically aligns with who you are. The author calls this the unity of opposites. It’s about blending your authentic self with effective leadership traits that may not come naturally to you. When this happens, it creates a magic formula for success.
What’s important to recognize here is that there isn’t one single leadership mode. People require different approaches from their leader to accommodate their various motivational styles. So toss aside the golden rule, which tells us that we should treat others as we would like to be treated, and instead embrace the platinum rule, which states: treat others as they wish to be treated.
One of the reasons why leadership coaching has proven to be a thriving field is because of its personalized approach. In dealing with people on a one-on-one basis, the coach has the opportunity to identify potential problems and, at the same time, emphasize an individual’s hidden potential.
With that in mind, one of the first things a coach will do is try to identify old habits and outdated thinking that the leader may be holding on to. For example, when a person is promoted to a leadership position, a common challenge is learning to delegate.
There’s a certain logic in thinking that you should do a job if you know you can do it better and faster than someone else, but this line of thinking needs an overhaul. Leaders delegate, plain and simple, and helping someone else become better at their job needs to be the new approach. New leaders need to realize that eyes are now on them, and to pay attention to how others are perceiving their actions – this includes what kind of behavior they tolerate and don’t tolerate. These kinds of details set the tone for the working environment.
Coaches know that the model of the gregarious, extroverted leader is old-fashioned. Introverted leaders have hidden talents that can be pushed to the forefront in coaching sessions. For example, today’s leaders benefit from having keen observational skills and a strong emotional and social intelligence. These are strong skills that a more introverted leader may naturally have. These skills are crucial in helping leaders to recognize that one leadership style isn’t going to cut it.
Different people require different approaches. It’s something that applies to coaching, and it’s something that applies to successful, dynamic leadership. The key here is to identify and question any outdated ideas that you may be holding on to. Then give yourself permission to explore new ideas.
Finding inspiration and a thinking partner
One of the truisms of the coaching process is that a lot happens in between sessions. You can get a leader to understand something intellectually, but getting them to change their behavior is another matter.
Something that can happen early on in the process is that a leader will take action and be unhappy with the outcome. This discontent is a signal. It means it’s time for the leader to reassess and ask themselves, “What do I really want?”
In leadership, knowing what you want is paramount. Without a clear goal, all efforts become futile. Once again, a leader can be holding on to old ideas from the successes they had at previous jobs. But do they apply to the here and now?
Let’s illustrate this with an example. Some companies like to treat their hires as children. They feed their employees, give them play areas, and even rooms to take a nap if they want. But this concept isn’t going to work at every business, and it might not be a good idea to begin with. Maybe the better strategy is to hire adults rather than children who are in need of constant supervision. Maybe the employees should be given the autonomy to decide when and where they get their work done. Recent experiments with four-day work weeks have shown that productivity isn’t sacrificed when you give employees more autonomy.
Another way to think of the role of the leadership coach is as a thinking partner. It’s their job to shift the leader’s ideas and beliefs in the hopes of fostering a new mindset. You can’t change a person’s behavior without first changing the way they think. New ideas always precede new behaviors, and it’s the only way to ensure lasting transformation.
Therefore, it’s the coach’s job to get the leader to think outside the binary framework of what’s “right” and “wrong.” Instead, leaders are encouraged to consider what aligns with personal or organizational values, and to overcome any fears they might have in embracing their authentic desires. Many leaders start off with traditional ideas that are based around being loud, authoritative, and using fear as motivation. But more often than not, this style of leadership isn’t particularly suited to anyone.
With help from a thinking partner, leaders can begin to see alternative paths of effective, respectful leadership that can align with their personal beliefs. In the sections ahead, we’ll see what can happen when these ideas are turned into actions.
Taking the leap and going vertical
Getting a leader to make the transition from idea to action can feel like asking them to jump off a cliff. Often, they’re filled with uncertainty and fear of the unknown. But for the coach and the leader, the real challenge lies not in the fear of failure but in navigating the ambiguous terrain of change.
One way of building momentum is to start with something that’s easy to do. For example, you could regularly write morning pages. This is a technique taken from Julie Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way: a ritual where you are encouraged to write three pages of stream-of-consciousness thoughts into a journal every morning. Applied to leadership coaching, it needn’t be three pages; three paragraphs is a great start.
At this point, it’s all about getting the ball rolling. The smallest actions can be beneficial in working your way toward bigger, more transformative changes. Think of it like an exercise program. Rather than starting with a two-hour, full-body workout, it might be best to start with a two-minute workout and build from there. Building is the key word here. It’s about overcoming resistance.
Now is a good time to mention the difference between horizontal and vertical development – the two dimensions of development. Horizontal development focuses on acquiring specific skills, and comes with a linear and logical approach. You crack open a book, or attend a lecture – you learn things.
Vertical development, on the other hand, is more practical. It’s about putting your skills to work in the real world – and this is what’s needed here. Through vertical development, you can increase your ability to navigate unpredictable environments with composure, judgment, and presence. In a world where certainty is a rarity, vertical development is essential for future-oriented leaders. Nevertheless, the world of leadership is obsessed with skills. Take the popular term upskilling, for example. But real breakthroughs come when leaders understand that skills alone are insufficient. Knowing how and when to apply the skills in the right way – that’s leadership, and a sign of genuine growth.
Vertical development places emphasis on context and the understanding that, more often than not, there aren’t simple, binary choices to be made. What might be the perfect solution in one situation may not work in the context of a similar situation. It’s the coach’s job to help the leader be open to not knowing; to embrace multiple perspectives, and appreciate the complexities that are unique to every situation.
Lasting change and continuous development
By now, it should be clear that leadership development is not simply about acquiring new skills and picking up tricks and techniques that other leaders have successfully used in the past. Leadership development is an individually tailored process that is geared toward facilitating lasting change. With the help of a coach, it fosters adjustment, improvement, and growth, for both aspiring managers and seasoned executives alike.
This is one of the reasons why coaching can be seen as having an advantage over conventional training methods. The one-on-one personalization, as well as the emphasis on applying different approaches to different contexts, makes coaching a powerful tool. It can not only benefit the leader, it can revitalize employee development and corporate culture.
Corporate culture starts from the top down, as it tends to be based on the kind of behavior that leadership encourages or tolerates. Leaders can change this by fostering a more empowered environment. For example, many employees don’t feel encouraged to share their own opinions or to constructively debate an issue in order to find the best solution. Employees are all too often content to do whatever the leader appears to want, for better or worse. But if the leader emphasizes self-empowerment and the free exchange of ideas, the culture can change for the better.
Part of the coaching process is understanding that mistakes are okay to make, and inevitable. In fact, a lot can be learned from mistakes as long as you have the right attitude and are willing to pause, acknowledge what went wrong, and take steps to improve. When the leader embraces this mentality it can easily carry over to the company at large.
When it comes to measuring success, this can be done in a multitude of ways. One measure developed by the author is the Leader Success Model. This highlights the core capacities essential for successful leadership. They are: flexibility, velocity, pattern recognition, self-regulation, and the internal compass.
As we take a brief look at each one, keep in mind that these are aspects of leadership that benefit from constant development. While a leader’s coaching sessions will ultimately come to an end, there is an understanding that the development process is ongoing, and that we never stop learning.
First is flexibility. This is crucial in the dynamic, ever-changing business environment. However, for the enlightened leader, flexibility should extend beyond behavioral aspects to encompass emotional, intellectual, and spiritual dimensions.
Next is velocity, which combines courage with focus, and highlights a leader’s ability to address challenges with determination and tenacity.
Pattern recognition concerns the ability to tune out what’s unimportant and recognize what is. Observational skills are key to success, as is the ability to take an impartial and realistic view of what’s going on around you.
Self-regulation is the ability to see what you’re doing in a clear-eyed fashion. The best leaders are able to recognize the good and bad aspects of what they’re doing.
Finally, there’s the internal compass. This one is difficult to measure, but may be the most important. In the Chinese martial art of tai chi, it’s referred to as a kind of central equilibrium. In coaching, just like in the martial art, it’s about making sure that all your movements and behaviors are centered on a guiding principle.
Much of leadership is about making the right choices, and this can become easier as you identify your core principles and work outward from there.
As they begin working with a coach, leaders are encouraged to ask themselves, “What do I really want?” – and it’s worth repeating it here as we come to a close. Remember, no one wants to follow a leader who doesn’t know what they want. When you know what you want, your internal compass will point you in the right direction.
Leadership coaching offers many advantages over traditional training. In general, it transcends the cookie-cutter approach, and allows for tailored coaching strategies that take into account the leader’s unique personality traits. This approach emphasizes lasting change in behavior and mindset, and steers us away from short-term fixes. By embracing complexities and nurturing a less binary decision-making process, the corporate culture can become more self-empowered.
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