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Bovo-Tighe and Harvard Business School Are On the Same Page

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We enjoy it when great minds and we agree!

We recently received an invitation to an online leadership seminar to be run by the folks at Harvard Business School (one of our staff is an alumnus, who plans to check it out.)

We like the topic, and we see potential in the messages they seek to convey. Here is a short summary, culled from the invitation:

“An executive’s leadership journey begins with an intentional, focused investment. This investment takes the leader out of his/her comfort zone, and requires a focus on improving himself and others. Intrapersonal excellence is only part of the journey. The ability to create a high performance team requires alignment on the team’s vision and priorities.”

The focus on stepping out of a comfort zone caught our eye. When we mentor and coach executives, that is a big step to take, but a critical one if leaders are to cast off the old mindsets that hinder them from getting aligned with either their staff or the realities of their organization or industry.

We feel the phrase “focus on improving himself and others” needs expansion, which we will get to in a moment. The seminar’s “key takeaways” are also worth a look, as they align with our own leadership tenets:

  • Each individual has the power to drive transformative change within their organization
  • Resilient leaders have an inner ability to overcome obstacles to transform themselves, their teams and their organizations
  • Transformative leaders are committed to continuous learning by identifying their weaknesses and committing to develop those weaknesses
  • At the core of great leaders rests the positive energy to develop their teams, drive execution and deliver business results

Transform Yourself First

The very first bullet point is critical:

  • Every person, regardless of position or responsibility, can transform him or herself into a highly effective leader for the organization.
  • You must transform yourself before you can help your teams and organization transform themselves.
  • You cannot transform others. They can, however, transform themselves with your help.

Second, we stress that transformational leaders* promise to make life better for those who follow them, and fulfill that promise by helping the team achieve shared goals. These leaders:

  • Care about the success of their followers (whoever they are)
  • Focus on people first, tasks second

We see a highly productive virtuous circle here: If a leader successfully engages his or her team and clearly communicates how much he or she cares about the entire team’s success, the team will motivate itself to complete the tasks needed to achieve that success. This activity frees the leader to concentrate even more time on employee engagement and motivation, further enhancing productivity.

Mind the gap, but don’t fret over it!

Every person, including transformational leaders, have gaps in their skill sets. These gaps may or may not be “weaknesses,” as the business school e-mail labeled them. They are, however, areas where the leader needs to find help. This help comes from a number of sources, all of which the leader should tap:

  • Team members whose skill sets complement the leader’s, covering gaps in a mutually beneficial way.
  • The boss’ skill set, which can be transferred to the leader through mentoring.
  • A coach hired to address talent gaps and help the leader to fill them.

The key to “filling the gaps” starts with the awareness that they exist, and the confidence to admit that it is normal, that everyone has them. The key difference with transformational leaders is that they have a willingness to truly work on adapting mindsets and skill sets to fill the gaps in working with the people around them.

What do you think? Can everyone become a transformational leader? What have you done to take steps in that direction?

*We call our leaders “transformational,” while Harvard Business School uses the adjective “transformative” in its course description. It may be splitting hairs, but we feel that “transformational” better captures the emotional appeal of what we seek to accomplish within ourselves, and within the people around us.

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