The research is now clear: leaders grow over time, and leadership can be thoughtfully and intentionally nurtured. This matters, because leaders matter. Great leaders support people to be their best selves, they create the conditions where massive problems can be solved, and they build organizations that are creative and resilient in the face of change.
Yet you probably know leaders who didn’t grow at all—even when they needed to. Great leadership doesn’t happen by mistake or chance. It happens when people intentionally develop the most helpful leadership habits.
With the right support, anyone can become better able to handle increasing amounts of complexity, ambiguity, and change. Research and practice show that it takes a combination of the right sort of challenges (which your work probably provides) and the right kind of support (that’s our job to help you think about) to turn your work into a place where you can be getting better each day—and growing the leadership capability your organization needs tomorrow.
We have spent much of our careers understanding the three Simple Habits that can help leaders expand their leadership styles to better lead in these complex and ambiguous times—and grow leadership through the organization. These habits improve the way leaders deal with people and challenges, and their benefits are immediate and long lasting.
Taking multiple perspectives cuts across our human tendency to see others as like us–or, if they’re not like us, assuming they are mistaken (or up to no good). The habit of genuinely taking the perspective of others improves your relationships, expands your own view, and leads to new solutions to even intractable problems.
When leaders ask different questions, they expand their view and open up the solution space for others. They become more curious and they learn more. Over time, the habit of asking different questions creates a culture that is more open to change and innovation.
Seeing systems is a habit that pushes against our normal practice of taking problems apart and solving them in pieces. Understanding the interactions of the moving parts, however, opens up new possibilities for small changes that make a massive difference.
Our focus is on creating new leadership habits that are both self-reinforcing and contagious. That is, practicing each habit is so helpful that you want to practice it some more, and your habits pass on to other people around you. Habits take some time to change, but then they become, well, habitual, and we do them almost without noticing. Making great leadership a habit–especially a contagious habit–means that the difficult work of leadership gets easier and the organization thrives.
My interactions with you in various settings have been one of the major highlights this year for me, and a real source of rich reflection and growth opportunity.