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Herminia Ibarra

Herminia Ibarra

21st Oct 2022

Six Words of Wisdom with Professor Herminia Ibarra

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Pedro Angulo: Driving success through succession
Paddy Barr: Make succession your legacy as a leader

Six Words of Wisdom with Professor Herminia Ibarra

Based on your current work – if you had only six words of advice to give a business, what would they be?

Cross-cutting, collaborating, coaching, culture-shaping, connecting, curiosity.

What does this mean?

To meet the adaptive challenges we face going forward, leaders must drive their organisations to become more agile, innovative, digitally-savvy, customer-centric, inclusive, and human. This requires a mindset shift from being “know it all’s” to “learn it all’s,” with five critical leadership skills key to creating an environment in which learning things an organisation doesn’t know how to do is valued over executing flawlessly on what it already knows – all built on a bedrock of curiosity.

Research shows that leaders who practice cross-cutting and build more diverse networks – overcoming our tendency to gravitate towards people most similar to ourselves – perform better and add more firm value than leaders with a narrower reach.

However, it’s vital that psychological safety be established for productive collaboration to take place – where teams feel safe to take risks and team members feel safe to speak up and share ideas without fear of ridicule. Failure to establish psychological safety is behind many if not most corporate failures and scandals.

But creating a space where open and constructive dialogue can take place requires a coaching style of leadership, which hinges on the ‘art of the question’ and having those critical conversations which facilitate development, learning, and performance – a shift away from the ‘answer-based’ form of leadership most are familiar with, and thus needs to be supported by an organisation’s culture.

To allow such deep change to flourish, leaders must take a wrecking ball to practices and aspects of a culture that are counter-productive or reinforce the wrong message. Think of Microsoft’s culture-shaping elimination of their Quarterly Business Review, which had become pure corporate theatre, and replacing it with a more learning-orientated session as part of their overall shift towards a learning culture.

Finally, who you are and how you connect to others has never been more important. Over 70% of leaders selected empathy as the top quality needed in leaders today. This requires vulnerability and courageous self-exploration, allowing leaders to extract valuable life lessons that increase their capacity to empathize, and therefore connect to others who undoubtably share some of the same struggles.

Where should we look for further information?

You can find more information here.

Herminia Ibarra is the Charles Handy Professor of Organizational Behavior at London Business School. Prior to joining LBS, she served on the Harvard Business School and INSEAD faculties.

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