A number of clients and others have asked about my upcoming book, and I thought I would use this post to provide information:
Title: Beyond Effective: Practices in Self-aware Leadership
Publisher: Trafford, Victoria, BC, Canada
Publication Date: January, 2008
Availability: Retail and Web
Click here to be notified by the publisher via email when the book is available.
Here's an excerpt from the book that explains the premise behind it:
Bookstores and experts are brimming with great advice about effective leadership. And why not? Being effective is a reasonable goal. Once that “effective” box is checked, though, some leaders want to take the next step: “Okay, I’m effective. . . . Now what?”
In fact, my work as an executive coach has shown that such leaders want more—often much more—than just to be effective.
If you are someone like that and are looking to take the next step beyond effective, then this book is meant for you. The many one-paragraph practices that follow were designed to help you turn untapped potential into greater fulfillment and sustainable positive results.
Take a moment now to consider what might be different about the way you would lead and operate professionally if you were to go “beyond effective” and work with ever-growing commitment, meaning, and self-awareness. Would things in your world look, sound, and feel different than they do today?
The road to self-awareness is not for the fainthearted, and self-awareness is certainly not a common theme in business books. In fact, as I was working on this project, I began to wonder if leaders and aspiring leaders would even recognize the need for it.
As luck would have it, the answer came during a meeting with the Chief Talent Officer of a well-known Fortune 500 company. I asked her about a fellow who seemed to many observers to be the obvious potential successor to the company’s long-tenured CEO. I wondered how that person was doing in his quest to take over for his boss and run the company. My friend explained that the current CEO had in fact called the man into his office and told him he would never be CEO. (The ambitious executive left the company not long thereafter, to “spend more time with the family.”) I wondered what the CEO’s concern was. She told me: “He said he couldn’t let anyone with so little self-awareness take over the company.”
So what do I mean by “self-awareness” and “self-aware leadership”? For our purposes, all of the following:
1. Becoming aware of (and editing) the beliefs that drive our behaviors, actions, and results as a leader
2. Deep humility—curiosity and open-mindedness to ideas, learning, and translating those into systemic change
3. A strong balance between fierce realism and an imaginative vision
4. Timely accountability and responsibility for our impact on others, our community, and on the world overall
5. Walking our talk and operating with great integrity
6. An unwavering commitment and drive to achieve
These six themes are critical keys to being more than simply an effective leader.
Consider some of the concerns facing today’s leader: acceleration of commerce and the pace of work; widespread geographical neutrality and multiculturalism; rapidly changing technologies; worldwide outsourcing; increasing interdependencies among organizations; performance, legal, market, regulatory, workforce, and governance pressures; and resource challenges. Then throw in family, health, friends, life changes and challenges, community, spiritual life, and heart.
It’s clear that the role of the leader today—and even more so tomorrow—is to master speed, turbulence, and complexity. Many leaders manage to cope with these tumultuous conditions, and, as the years click by, to remain in coping mode. Among the successful are those who feel there must be something more—that their best efforts are leaving them exhausted, stressed, and seeking better ways to lead, find greater meaning, or even be happier overall. Sound familiar?
Imagine for a moment that you reset your expectations from simply “coping” to, let’s say, thriving. Set the bar higher and you’ll need to change the way you think about leadership and how you operate day by day. Lasting change always boils down to principles like this: When you replace your core beliefs with ones that serve you rather than work against you, your feelings change, your actions are more powerful, and better results follow.
The hundred practices in this book, a number of which have already appeared in BusinessWeek Online, are designed to help you awaken to your own operating system of beliefs, and to do something with what you uncover. That means confronting your blind spots, reassessing outdated standards you have for yourself and others, becoming aware of and learning to manage your negative self-talk at work, and catching yourself when you are getting in your own way or in the way of others. The goal is to help you ride the wave rather than try to remain standing as the next one hits you.
For that, you need to become the world’s leading expert on, and to stay in constant touch with, the leader in the mirror. Do this work and, as you lead others, you will model continuous learning and development. That in turn will help your people and your organization to thrive.
During the course of my work as an executive coach, I have seen the following premise proven: The greater your self-awareness, the more of your own potential you will put into action and the more adaptive, skillful, and happy a leader you will be.
Many leaders and aspiring leaders can benefit from these practices. My clients, whether they’ve been at it for two years or thirty, will usually say something like this:
When I became a leader, there was no handbook or road map—I feel like I’m doing it by the seat of my pants. Because I’m the one in charge, people aren’t always frank with me. The company’s doing well, but other than by looking at the numbers, how do I know I’m doing things the best possible way?
That’s a great starting point—admitting you don’t have the answers, may not have all the tools, and are wondering if there’s a better way. My work with leaders cannot go forward without such curiosity and humility, two of the most important factors listed above. It’s also a great perspective from which to practice the ideas in this book.
Ahead you will find practices, but no magic bullets. Why? In the course of my own work as a leader, literally from mailroom to executive suite and now as a coach, I have been “taking notes” about what works. I’ve learned that capable, motivated people have their own, best, most fitting answers—better than any canned advice or ancient wisdom I could quote. I developed these practices to help you tap into your own core assumptions about leadership, pick out the less effective ones, and replace them with high-performing beliefs.
The book is organized into five sections of nineteen to twenty-one practices. They are not going to be all-inclusive of what’s needed for all leaders, nor will each one be right for you.
There are as many ways to use this book as there are readers like you: For example, open up to a random page each week and take on the practice you find there; use a particular concept as a starting point for a candid discussion or one-on-one with someone who reports to you, or with someone you mentor; ask a trusted advisor or coach for feedback for yourself; write out in journal format your response to a practice and, when ready, move on to another; and so on.
As they say in recovery circles, take what you find useful, and leave the rest. Some of the notions here will hold no resonance for you, others will bother or challenge you (my favorite!), and still others may be reassuring. All of them are intended to provide ongoing support that will offer you the chance to take your full, untapped potential for a new ride on the wave of continuous change.
If you’re willing to take a little risk, get bothered, and lean into what you don’t know, even if it might “sting,” then this book is for you. I hope so, because what you can create is limited only by your beliefs.