How to Attract (and Retain) Top Talent

Although the Great Resignation isn’t quite so great anymore, the talent pool continues to shrink. Our podcast guest, Sander van ‘t Noordende—the CEO of Randstad—says this presents a critical need for leaders not only to attract top talent but also to retain them.

That can be tricky, especially now that we have five different and distinct generations active in the workplace, each with their own needs and values. But take heart: with all of Randstad’s research and experience at his fingertips, Sander has tips to keep your talent roster full and stable.

1. Acknowledge the Generational Differences…

There truly are significant differences in the motivations and desires of our diverse generations. While older cohorts such as Boomers may still find major motivation in pay and power, younger cohorts like Gen Z prioritize inclusion, work-life balance, career development opportunities, and alignment between personal and organizational purpose. This very simple fact—generational differences—eludes many CEOs, who are then surprised at the backlash and talent drain that often result from blanket edicts such as full Return to Office.

2. …and Seek Generational Similarities.

Despite the differences, all generations hold plenty in common. Flexible work arrangements present a prime example: from recent grads to “retirees” in their comeback careers, nearly everyone loves schedule and worksite flexibility. From taking care of family needs to finding the hours when they’re most productive, flexibility reduces stress and boosts engagement. Other cross-generational desires will vary from workplace to workplace, so by all means poll your teams to find out what initiatives will provide the best employee growth and satisfaction.

3. Know Your ABCs.

Watching what makes the international workforce tick, Sander and Randstad developed the ABC talent framework. It makes memorable the shifting priorities of today’s employees: Ambition, Balance, and Connection. This trio answers many of the issues in items 1 and 2 above. Personal and career development opportunities, mentoring, and sponsoring all satisfy people motivated by their ambition. On the other hand, fully 50% of surveyed employees believe balance is more important than pay. And 70% of people want a feeling of connection to the organization, their colleagues, and the like. So, keep those ABCs in mind as you ponder the mix that attracts talent to your team.

4. Make It Personal.

Clearly, one-size-fits-all experiences, benefits, opportunities, and support no longer work well. Instead, have a suite of offerings on hand so you can customize the work experience to meet the unique needs of employees from different generations, demographics, and career & life stages.

5. Keep It Positive.

This is obvious, but just to make it official, people of all generations are far more engaged, productive, and just plain happy in a positive working environment. Following the steps above helps accomplish this, of course—that’s Sander’s point. But it’s all reinforced in a culture that brings everyone respect, collaboration, and mutual support.

The competition for top talent will grow more intense through the coming decade. You can win it with a conscious eye toward our historically diverse workforce’s different needs and desires.

What could a company offer that would attract YOU to join their team? What does your current organization do to retain you and other top talent?


This article was adapted by Dan Mushalko from our podcast episode From Pay to Purpose: What Drives Top Talent.

Thank you for reading our newsletter, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.

We strive to elevate the quality of leadership worldwide. Are you ready? If you are looking for help developing your leaders, explore our services.

6 Questions with an Executive Consultant

This week, we begin a new Q&A series interviewing thought leaders, CEOs, researchers, and others for their perspectives on a multitude of business and leadership questions. We start with Innovative Leadership Institute founder and CEO Maureen Metcalf. Check out her answers to these timely issues:

1. If you could give executive leaders everywhere a single piece of advice, what would it be?

Find the intersection between what you are passionate about, what you are great at, what can pay your bills, and what the world needs. Once you’ve identified this, build your skills to move in this direction. This is how you become competent, fulfilled, and compensated.

2. What’s a common belief or practice you still see executive leaders holding onto even though it’s outdated and won’t serve them?

Leaders must have all the answers, and this idea is hard to let go of when people come to us looking for answers. Having those answers helps us feel valuable — and not knowing is risky. Current leaders must take on the mind of the scientist: We build the ability to formulate a hypothesis, seek input, test our hypothesis, learn, refine our direction, and move forward. We need to learn constantly and acknowledge our curiosity rather than our answers.

3. The business world has probably seen more flux in the past few years than ever before. What challenges or disruptions should savvy leaders be educating themselves about right now?

AI is the most significant change most of us will see in our careers, and other areas will also produce substantial change. AI is the intersection of many changes in technology, operations, resources, and more that cause leaders to need to master the art of elevating their abilities and evolving their organizations.

4. What’s a simple tip that can help new C-suite executives quickly assimilate and excel?

Understand the ecosystem. C-suite executives need to pay attention to politics and understand the business, trends, competitors, adjacent industries, and more. As a C-suite leader, you’re responsible for the impact you make on your customers, employees, and communities. Your actions and decisions are far-reaching and can have significant consequences.

5. What’s your favorite part of the job? What gets you most excited?

I’m fortunate to love many parts of my job, ranging from advising executives to interviewing thought leaders on my podcast to writing books. It brings me happiness to see people elevate their skills and see organizations evolve to become more successful across a broad range of measures that matter to them.

6. What’s something you’ve learned recently? What made it so interesting?

I learn continually! I love frameworks that help me refine my thinking and that I can share with my clients. In a recent conversation, our alumni cohort discussed the importance of having a vision, corresponding intention, and positive energy to get results. The distinction was that we can remain positive in most situations even when we aren’t accomplishing our initial vision. We must balance commitment to our vision with a healthy amount of flexibility.

Innovative Leadership & Followership in the Age of AI Audiobook

We’re delighted to share that the audiobook version of the new book Innovative Leadership & Followership in the Age of AI is available now! Find it on Audible at

Thank you for reading our newsletter, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.

We strive to elevate the quality of leadership worldwide. Are you ready? If you are looking for help developing your leaders, explore our services.

How to Build Your Ethics (and Avoid Messes Down the Road)

There’s a link between leaders and the fallout from the student protests over the Gaza conflict. That link: ethics.

Ultimately, the lack of a clear ethical framework sparked the struggles and consequences for several university presidents. Forging those frameworks fed success for other collegiate leaders. That difference may make or break your own organization in times of crisis. In fact, clearly stated ethics can help you avoid crises in the first place!

Ethics are a weighty business, debated by philosophers for millennia. But our podcast guest, Greg Moran, has several steps to help today’s leaders develop their organizations’ ethical guidelines in substantially less time.

1) Define Your Ethical Framework.

No one-size-fits-all exists for this: ethics vary from leader to leader. The key here is to take the time for internal examination, both of yourself and of the board. What values and moral beliefs does the board hold dear and wants the organization to practice? How do those match with the ethics you see as necessary as the person directly leading your team? Hammer out any differences; it’s critical for your visions to match.

2) Compare the Ethical Ideal to Company Culture.

Even in the best-run organizations, there can be a major mismatch between a leader’s ideals and how the front line operates. Often, a new leader is brought in specifically to adjust the company culture. Either way, ethical inertia presents stiff resistance; it’s another aspect of the “We’ve always done it this way” habit. Ensure your board and full C-suite support you and the new framework. Plan carefully with ways to bridge the differences between old and new values.

3) Communicate Carefully and Clearly.

Even the most stellar ethics fall flat if no one knows them. As soon as your ethics are formally framed, follow up by forging an action plan to inform every single employee. Include timelines, expectations, and consequences. Greg observed that this missed step resulted in much of the campus chaos at colleges like Columbia in the last few weeks.

4) Walk the Talk.

How you behave tells your team how serious you are. Hypocrisy erodes initiatives faster than a morning meme on Slack. Make sure you personally follow every item in your organization’s official ethics statement. It both demonstrates that these are real values you expect everyone to follow, and provides living proof that they can be followed in practice.

5) Prepare for conflict and crisis.

This is the other step Greg says many campus leaders skipped. We all hope to avoid crises in the first place, but we can’t control every variable, so have a plan ready. Your ethical framework rests at the core of any crisis response. If the crisis takes you completely by surprise, let people know you need to step back to consider the situation. Communicate (see Step 3!) with a short timetable or deadline, and forthrightly explain that you’re assessing the situation through the lens of the organization’s formal ethical framework. Even if you needed to employ stopgap measures first, this honest communication goes far in defusing any escalation.

Some leaders see morality and ethics as nice-haves: extras that aren’t necessary for running an organization. Others view them as hindrances to winning against competitors. As Greg points out, though, they are absolutely vital for a well-run team, providing continual guidance and demonstrating what your organization is all about. And as we’ve seen from Enron in the past and Boeing today, those formal frameworks can keep you out of trouble!


This article was adapted by Dan Mushalko from our podcast episode How Missing Ethics Makes a Mess of Organizations.

Thank you for reading our newsletter, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.

We strive to elevate the quality of leadership worldwide. Are you ready? If you are looking for help developing your leaders, explore our services.

Refresh Your Leadership Path

As a leader, you’re always thinking about others: your team, your peers, and the organization as a whole. But what about you?

Our podcast guest, Tammy Alvarez, says leaders must give their own careers as much priority as they give their teams. Hating Mondays is a sure sign your career needs a refresh. Based on her own remarkable career path, and now as CEO of the Career Winners Circle, Tammy offers a wealth of career-enhancing guidance. Here are a handful of her tips you can start using today!

Foremost, shift your mindset from getting paid for what you do to being paid for what you know.

Knowledge is your true value proposition. It’s unique to you and the experiences you’ve had: the lessons both formal schooling and the school of life taught you. No one else holds the exact same formula. Then, move your career toward positions that need your knowledge; they ARE out there and might even be in your own department.

Second, yet just as important, treat your career like a business.

It only makes sense to view your career as a business. After all, your skills, experience, and knowledge are your product, brand, and intellectual property. Just as you do for your organization, develop a major career goal. Strategize; determine the steps on how to get there, and formalize that into a plan. You can even set career benchmarks. As Louis Pasteur famously said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Knowing your career path prepares your mind to better see the opportunities that will move you toward your goals.

Use your leadership mindsets as career-advancing mindsets.

Resilience. Adaptability. Agility. So many of the mindsets and traits we’ve emphasized as marks of great leadership also work well when focused on your career. Receiving rejection on a job application is all but inevitable; maintaining resilience so you recover from disappointment and resume your career plan quickly has obvious advantages. It can be difficult to apply some leadership strengths to our personal lives, but when you view your career as a business, using your day job skills becomes much easier.

Transform apathy into ambition.

This one is probably new to you; it was to us! Tammy points out that apathy lurks at the root of the career trap. You feel stuck in an unfulfilling job but held there by the need to pay the bills. It eventually becomes apathy. You go through the motions, and the career red flag goes up: you hate Mondays. Let that apathy, paradoxically, become your motivation to take control of your career path. Let your plan become the light that dissipates the darkness of apathy. Think of Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption and how his careful, long-term plan kept him going until his iconic escape.

Finally, navigate chaos and opportunity.

“During times of chaos, there is always opportunity,” Tammy says—and we are most assuredly in a time of chaos! This goes beyond simply being agile and resilient. It’s more than spotting opportunities, per Louis Pasteur above. Here, you’re actively creating opportunities. In her own career, Tammy did this by taking on third-rail projects. Those are the projects no one else will touch because they seem doomed to failure or otherwise require Herculean efforts. Tammy found, though, that precisely because no one expected success, simply making progress on those projects elevated her reputation among her leaders, and taught her valuable new skills that brought success to “normal” projects down the road.

Tammy and Maureen discuss many other career tips in the podcast. These are just a few you can start working on right now. Another way to boost your career now is by diving deep into the leadership mindsets Tammy mentioned. You can do that easily in our focused Leadership Mindset course; click to see all the details at


This article was adapted by Dan Mushalko from our podcast episode Steer Your Career to the Next Tier.

Thank you for reading our newsletter, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.

We strive to elevate the quality of leadership worldwide. Are you ready? If you are looking for help developing your leaders, explore our services.

The Prep Expert’s Blueprint for Leadership

Dr. Shaan Patel‘s story reads like the American Dream made real: with grit and determination, he rose from a modest background and mediocre SAT scores to earn an MD and become CEO of a market-leading company. He also scored an appearance and investment on Shark Tank to add a little spice to the tale!

The CEO of Prep Expert spoke to us about his remarkable leadership journey in our podcast. Along the way, Shaan learned leadership lessons that are valuable to every exec and entrepreneur. Find them below.

Embrace Challenge.

You can’t lead on cruise control. From team conflicts to cunning competitors, challenges inevitably arise. At the very least, you gain knowledge and skills from each challenge. But shrewd leaders go further, accepting those challenges as opportunities in disguise. Even small challenges help: in a very real sense, penicillin and the wave of antibiotics that followed resulted from the challenge of washing dirty Petri dishes! In Shaan’s case, his initial struggle with his SAT test led to the creation of Prep Expert—a personal challenge leading to the solution of a broader issue.

Adaptability Is Crucial.

The world has changed. Instead of “getting back to normal,” changes continue to come at us all the faster. Adapting to these changing circumstances is key to success. Indeed, refusing to adapt can do more than limit success: it can render you and your organization outright irrelevant. So, embrace change along with challenges; you’ll stay ahead of the curve (and the competition). This is another face of resilience, and Shaan has demonstrated it many times on his journey. Even on Shark Tank, he was met with great skepticism—but persevered and won over shark Mark Cuban.

Put People First.

From front-line workers to customers, your business loop begins and ends with people. Internally, promote empowerment throughout your team; this fosters a sense of ownership and accountability in them. Externally, think about your social impact beyond profit. Having a broader view of success is a win-win: you’re doing good for others, which enhances your reputation and fosters customer and team loyalty. Plus, it just plain feels good (a fact that has been scientifically verified!).

Keep Learning.

This has become a common theme with our guests: with constant change, we must constantly learn. The knowledge that led to past success may not be enough to maintain it. Shaan is committed to continuous learning; right now, that’s reflected in working to better understand AI and how it will affect his industry. Even for seasoned execs, there’s tremendous value in mentorship and coaching. Shaan sees his mentoring with Mark Cuban as a major contribution to his leadership growth.

Innovate and Think Forward.

Being proactive keeps you ahead of the curve. By forward-thinking, you anticipate change before it becomes disruptive. That helps keep you and your team operating smoothly. Even better, the solutions you develop to meet those changes may well be ground-breaking innovations that enhance your success even further.

Shaan set himself apart by discerning these principles. He met challenges by innovating solutions—and by looking ahead to create his own changes, leading to leadership (and company) growth.

The best part is that these are universal principles anyone can adopt. In fact, they’re all part of the leadership framework we developed at the Innovative Leadership Institute. To learn about them in more detail, check our website at, or DM us here on LinkedIn!


This article was adapted by Dan Mushalko from our podcast episode Leadership Lessons from Shark Tank…and Beyond.

Thank you for reading our newsletter, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.

We strive to elevate the quality of leadership worldwide. Are you ready? If you are looking for help developing your leaders, explore our services.

Leading Your Wounded Workforce

At least 70% of American adults have endured a traumatic experience. That means a good chunk of your workforce is dealing with trauma in their background. Even if you don’t have the highest empathy, the impacts on employee focus, teamwork, and productivity—frankly, nearly every aspect of business—are clear. But you’re a leader, not a psychologist; what are you supposed to do about it?

Our guest, Stephanie Lemek, founder and CEO of The Wounded Workforce, has an answer. In this podcast, she shares the stats and her seven principles of trauma-informed workplaces.

Next time you’re in the office (or on a department Zoom call), pause. Take a look at all the people on your team. Then let this sink in: seven out of every ten of them has experienced at least one trauma.

Trauma is as unique as our fingerprints; each of us reacts differently to it. That’s why you often don’t recognize it in your staff, but it’s surfacing in many ways—from perfectionism to absenteeism—and those affect your daily business.

In our interview, Stephanie offers this framework for understanding trauma’s relevance in your workplace:

Understand the Impact.

Coping behaviors have a very real impact on employee performance, well-being, and productivity. Both perfectionism and absenteeism obviously slow down a project’s progress. But there are subtler effects for getting work done. It could be as simple as an employee who’s startled by sudden or loud noises and then needs a few minutes to calm down. Or, as happened in Maureen Metcalf’s (our CEO) MBA class, a boss pounding the table in anger triggers physical abuse memories for a person, who then “escapes” the room, missing the meeting and the day’s work.

Learn and Observe.

Go beyond pop psychology; educate yourself about PTSD and other effects of trauma. You can start quickly with Stephanie’s YouTube channel: As you learn about trauma’s complexities, observe your team with an informed eye as you understand their actions and reactions more deeply.

Launch Trauma-Informed Practices.

Now that you can see trauma’s effects, it’s time to reduce them. Tackle this in two broad ways. First, avoid re-traumatization. Minimize triggers by finding common stressors. This doesn’t have to be complicated; in Maureen’s example, a simple policy of no yelling or table-pounding during meetings would do the trick! Second, create safe spaces. The key here is to build an environment and culture where staff feel secure and supported.

Build on What Works.

Your workplace and leadership style are just as unique as all those buried traumas. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Experiment, and fully involve your team. Together, as you discover which of those practices mentioned above work in your particular arena, formalize them into policies and processes.

Take the Lead.

You ARE the leader, after all. You set the tone and light the spark for action in transforming your organization or department into a trauma-informed workplace. Share the educational resources that informed you; you’ll be amazed at the great ideas your team will have in building this mission. Stephanie has one important caveat, though: remember that you’re a leader, not a therapist. Shape your workplace and create a safe space…but leave treating the deep issues to psychologists.

Now that you’ve read this—and, ideally, listened to the podcast—pause again. Look once more upon the faces of your workmates, your friends, and your team. For seven of every ten people there, you’ve just taken the first step in recognizing their pain. As a trauma-informed leader, you really can make a difference.


This article was adapted by Dan Mushalko from our podcast episode Break the Cycle: The Role of Trauma-Informed Leaders.

Thank you for reading our newsletter, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.

We strive to elevate the quality of leadership worldwide. Are you ready? If you are looking for help developing your leaders, explore our services.

Seven Steps to Elevate Your Leadership through Vertical Development

Some leaders see the big picture very clearly—they understand complexity, know their own weaknesses well, and follow principles rather than rules. These leaders are called post-conventional, and our guest, Michael Morrow-Fox, has studied them deeply for his doctorate and consulting practice.

He’s teased out several ways we can all grow and develop toward post-conventional perspectives. It’s not easy, he warns…but he shares them in this episode.

To update an old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s HOW you know.”

Today’s business climate can be maddening for leaders. It’s complex. It’s uncertain. It’s rapidly changing. In short, it’s VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity). Yet there are some leaders who understand the complexity, stay steady through the uncertainty, and guide the change. These are post-conventional leaders, and, according to Mike, their key to personal growth is “vertical development.” That’s a process that not only enhances what they know but how they think and understand the world around them.

To oversimplify a bit, “horizontal development” is increasing what you know or expanding your knowledge. Vertical development, meanwhile, enhances how you process and apply that knowledge; it’s your growing mindset and actual thought process. This is where visionary leaders are born.

Fortunately, Mike has seven tips to help you on your own vertical journey:

1. Keep learning.

Get to know what your goal of post-conventional thinking is all about. Read articles on leadership development (may we recommend this weekly newsletter?). Get books by researchers in this field such as Bob Keegan and Susanne Cook-Greuter. Listen to our podcasts. Knowing what your end goal looks like makes it a lot easier to achieve.

2. Turn on the heat experiences.

These are simply things that push you out of your comfort zone. You can’t learn new skills or see new perspectives if you’re always doing the same old same old. Try joining a project at work that’s a little over your head, or volunteer to make a speech to a group you’ve never met. These new experiences help literally rewire your brain.

3. Bump heads (figuratively!).

Mike calls this “colliding perspectives.” Your parents may have called it “agreeing to disagree.” You want to expose yourself to ideas different from your own, so engage with people whose opinions are far from yours. Then listen instead of worrying about defending your own position.

4. Elevate your sense-making.

As you gain knowledge, experience, and exposure to others’ perspectives, your own perspective grows. You begin making sense of the world in new ways, often in ways that let you see a bigger picture of issues and their solutions. It helps to have someone whose worldview you admire—a mentor or coach who may already be a post-conventional thinker—help you understand your path.

5. Get to know yourself.

As leaders, we all have strengths to offer our teams, organizations, and the world. Get to know your weaknesses, too. Those are nothing to fear; forgive yourself for what you don’t do well, bring people into your team who can do them, and then love yourself for what you CAN do well. Mike points out that at this stage, you realize “I no longer have to be perfect.”

6. Be curious.

Watch for the differences in the ways others view the world. Ask questions. There’s an energy in curiosity that activates and charges the mind. This is why humanity’s greatest thinkers often seem so childlike; they never stop wielding the magic of “why?”. As Einstein said, “Never cease to stand like curious children…”

7. Get support!

This isn’t easy. Both Mike and our CEO, Maureen Metcalf, reiterate this several times during the podcast. There are growing pains, just like we had physical pains during childhood growth spurts. Draw on teachers, mentors, friends, and family for personal support. And take advantage of online offerings from researchers and thought leaders in the field, such as Terri O’Fallon at STAGES International.

Take heart. If you read the article through here, you’ve already taken the first steps on your own developmental journey: you’re curious and learning. Prepare to see a whole new world—a new leadership point of view!

*VUCA = Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. Learn more in our interview with Chris Nolan at


This article was adapted by Dan Mushalko from our podcast episode Growing Up and Out: Development for Modern Leaders.

Thank you for reading our newsletter, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.

We strive to elevate the quality of leadership worldwide. Are you ready? If you are looking for help developing your leaders, explore our services.

Burnout and Beyond: Why Leaders Use Psychedelics

Stress only touches the surface of what leaders endure. Leaders are no exception to the rise in physical and mental health issues we’re seeing increase in the workplace. So how do you stay healthy and retain your competitive edge?

Yoga, mindfulness, distance running: all manner of efforts can help. But one is on the rise that was taboo just a few decades ago: psychedelics. They’ve been gaining popularity in executive suites across corporate sectors. Why? Our guest Paul F. Austin, founder and CEO of Third Wave, shares some answers…along with important guidelines.

Like everyone else, leaders have their trends. One of the hot growing leadership trends is Cali Sober. From Elon Musk to Aaron Rodgers, leaders of all stripes are eschewing the stereotypical stress reliever of past executives—alcohol—and relaxing with psychedelics instead. (It’s called Cali Sober due to its origins in California’s Silicon Valley.)

But psychedelics received such a bad rap in the 1960s and ‘70s that we have to wonder: are they safe for the corporate world?

From Paul’s discussion on the podcast, we’ve distilled these advantages and disadvantages to help discern fact from stigma.


1) Stress Management & Burnout Prevention

This is the most obvious way psychedelics are replacing alcohol for overworked executives. From Bewitched to Madmen, pop culture consistently showed business culture as using alcohol for everything from greeting a new client to soothing one’s nerves after losing a big account. Paul says today’s emphasis on healthier living means abandoning the potential toxic side effects of cocktails and liquor for microdosing psychedelics to “take the edge off.”

2) Maintaining a Competitive Edge

Leaders report that microdosing psilocybin, LSD, and similar drugs enhances creativity and innovation. Part of this obviously comes from stress relief; we often find solutions when we’re distracted and stop thinking about a problem. But the fact that this microdosing also changes perspectives and “opens their minds” to new possibilities clearly plays a major role; these execs are seeing problems and solutions in new ways. Obviously, the more solutions you see, and the more innovations you create, the more you’ll outdistance the competition!

3) Personal Growth and Development

Speaking of perspective shifts, these also help leaders with their own development. Leaders report profound personal insights following psychedelic experiences. Seeing themselves in a new light often results in more effective leadership styles and better decision-making.

4) Higher EQ

Those personal insights also lead to higher empathy and relationship skills. That provides a clear boost to improved interpersonal relationships. And that boost, in turn, helps leaders create more cohesive teams.

Of course, psychedelic use isn’t all upsides! Consider these potential Disadvantages, too:

1) Legality

The use of psychedelics is heavily regulated. While ketamine is legal in all 50 states of the U.S., for example, there are regulations on how, when, and why it can be used. Most other psychedelics, such as psilocybin mushrooms, enjoy approval in far fewer states.

2) Stigma

Although natural psychedelics, such as peyote and mushrooms, have been used by humans for thousands of years, psychoactive drugs were heavily stigmatized in the 20th century. Many people still hold those stigmatic views—hence the legal issues mentioned above. In turn, using these drugs can lead to poor public perception of you and your organization.

3) Misuse and Dependency

The use of psychedelics for leaders is decidedly not the free-for-all of the 1960s counterculture. They must all be used with proper guidance, a knowledgeable facilitator present, and in controlled settings. There is always the risk of negative effects (a “bad trip” in ‘60s-speak), which can have mental health implications. And while there’s very little chance of physical dependency, unmonitored use can lead to a psychological need, such as believing you can’t be creative or relax without them. *Note that it is always advised that you consult a doctor before engaging with psychedelics, especially if you take prescription medications.

Because we are the Innovative Leadership Institute, we constantly absorb the latest research and trends in leadership development and effectiveness. Sometimes, those trends are in a gray zone—an area on the fine tip of society’s cutting edge where adoption is not clear. Psychedelics are currently in this zone.

As a result, we’re very curious about how YOU feel. Weighing the advantages and disadvantages, is it time to erase the stigma of psychedelics, particularly when microdosed?  Should they remain only a medical and therapeutic tool—or be a tool of the C-suite, too? Let us know in the comments!


This article was adapted by Dan Mushalko from our podcast episode How Psychedelics Enhance Modern Leadership.

Thank you for reading our newsletter, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.

We strive to elevate the quality of leadership worldwide. Are you ready? If you are looking for help developing your leaders, explore our services.

To Change Minds, Change Your Conversation

Communication for leaders isn’t as easy as we like to think. It’s far more than just opening your mouth and letting words gush out. Your followers analyze every word, look for nuance, and read between the lines—so they often hear things you never meant! That can spell disaster for your team, if not your company.

Our guest, executive coach Amiel Handelsman, has some proven ways to improve your leadership conversations—like swapping mansplaining with manquiring. He explains more in this episode.

“Just listen.” That tired old trope telling leaders how to better communicate doesn’t cut it anymore. The workplace and its teams have become far more complex: five distinct generations actively working, divisive politics, culture wars, real wars, shrinking talent pools…the list goes on.

Amiel has keenly discerned eleven skills and concepts most crucial for leaders to effectively communicate in our diverse workplaces. Here are five that stood out to us as particularly transformative or unexpected.

1. Inquire or Manquire

Inquiring moves you beyond the old-school stereotype of the leader who knows everything. If you’re prone to over-explaining in a condescending manner or assuming that a person has no knowledge of a subject, you may be mansplaining (or an offshoot thereof). Combat mansplaining with its foil: manquiring (man + inquiring). Though the concepts are directed at a specific gender group, the practice of inquiry is useful for anyone. Inquiring is the act of intentionally asking questions to better understand what someone is communicating to you. Assume from the get-go that you don’t know it all. Go to your team and ask what they know. This stance of curiosity fills your knowledge gaps while letting your team know they are heard and valued. It boosts two-way communication and navigates unconscious bias in the process.

2. Confirm and Clarify

Now that you have all that new information, make sure you understand it. Simple misunderstandings derail even the most fortified plans. Paraphrase what you heard (or read) from a teammate and relay that back to them. Tell them what you think the ramifications of their points are. This creates a great feedback loop. In the end, it boosts efficiency because everyone is clearly on the same page with the same goals and mission in mind.

3. Be a Conversational Chameleon

No two people communicate exactly alike. Some people read between the lines instead of paying attention to your words; others demand exacting accuracy in your vocabulary and take every word literally. It’s up to you as the leader to learn how each team member understands you best and to further adapt your communication style to the context and the medium. Cultivate your own conversational agility so your unique voice and intent come through no matter who you’re speaking with.

4. When You Assume, It Makes an…

It’s natural to assess someone, or what they say, on the fly. But these subjective judgments you make in the moment can be influenced by little things that have nothing to do with the conversation: something as big as having an accident on the way to work, or as small as garlic on their breath after lunch. During the conversation itself, pause before reacting; be certain you’re reacting to what you’ve just heard rather than leftover emotions from something else. Afterward, reassess, and see if your assessment aligns with concrete evidence, observable facts, and a clean rationale.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice

We all learn to communicate at some level from the moment we are born. Our communication gets a bit more specific as we grow because we constantly practice and tweak as we learn what gets better results. This shouldn’t stop just because we reach adulthood! Even the most gifted athletes practice relentlessly to hone their performance; practicing is perfect for your communications, too. Play with different writing styles, speak in front of a mirror, and be aware of your body language—all of these hone your messaging. And just as you paraphrase what you hear from others (remember #2?), ask people to paraphrase your words so you receive feedback, too.

Trendy leadership advice focuses so much on listening to your team that we forget effective communication is a two-way process. Amiel’s tips are a potent reminder to work on that circular flow. The best leaders do more than listen; they are also heard!


This article was adapted by Dan Mushalko from our podcast episode Cultivating Conversation: How to Improve Leaders’ Communication.

Thank you for reading our newsletter, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.

We strive to elevate the quality of leadership worldwide. Are you ready? If you are looking for help developing your leaders, explore our services.


The Amazon Effect: How to Drive Innovation

We’re in the midst of a technological revolution. AI, quantum computing, Humane’s Pin, drone delivery: take your pick! From farming to sales, radical new technologies are here, and more are on the way for every business sector. That’s unavoidable.

Whether that tech disrupts or enhances your business is up to you.

It’s hardly a secret that tech innovation is a major component of Amazon’s success. It undeniably enhances their business. And they are more than happy to share their “secret sauce” for driving that innovation, as Steve Armato, Amazon’s vice president for Middle Mile and Tech, reveals in our podcast with him.

Here’s how Amazon fosters a transformative role for AI and other technologies to keep their practices cutting-edge…and profitable.

1. Empowerment: Start with Your People.

Humans remain the alpha and omega of innovation. Steve says Amazon empowers employees by providing training, development, education, and other upskilling programs…shaping a supportive environment for sharing and prototyping new ideas. Steve is particularly fond of Innovation at Scale: encouraging a collaborative approach to moving an idea to a reality that benefits multiple groups across the company.

2. Innovate with People in Mind.

The purpose of any innovation must ultimately benefit people, either your employees or your customers. At Amazon, innovation benefits both employees and customers. For example, Amazon uses AI to provide summaries of the many reviews of each product offered so customers can quickly see why an item gets its score. AI also designs new delivery routes to get purchases to the customer’s porch faster and more efficiently. Meanwhile, robots boost ergonomics (and thus reduce injuries) for warehouse workers.

3. Keep an Eye on AI.

Amazon has used machine learning for decades…thoughtfully. AI systems are used to personalize customers’ shopping experiences and personalize employees’ work experiences. AI is also used for forecasting and predictive inventory management, which is why the retailer is so reliable and rarely unable to provide a listed product. Steve believes this AI is simply the latest step in technology’s standard evolution, in this case, from mainframe computers to desktops to smartphones to AI.

4. Monitor and Test: Is It Really Helping?

Even the best tech is no good if it doesn’t help your organization. Look beyond the immediate. While AI-driven forecasts and inventory management lead to better product placement, faster deliveries, and reduced costs, they also significantly boost Amazon’s sustainability by reducing shipping distances. Other new tech also drives Amazon’s shift to electric delivery vans and renewable energy projects, further driving sustainability and long-term reductions in operating costs.

5. Leaders Must Lead.

Just as innovation starts with people, so do people close the innovation loop. In this case, it’s you: the human leader. It’s important for you to create an innovative culture, to have your own innovative mindset, and to create a vision of the future. Successful innovation requires leaders with a mix of grit and optimism: you’ll need to maintain your drive when the inevitable bumps in the road arise and continue having faith in your vision. Both of those positively affect your team. This magnifies innovation; many of Amazon’s ideas come from the bottom-up rather than just the top-down.

6. Bonus: Your Innovation Boosts Beyond You.

Amazon freely shares much of its tech, developing enterprise-level tools for small businesses, such as mapping and routing tools. It also has a multi-million dollar program to train and upskill the public on AI and other tech, not just its own workers. That ensures a future talent pool not only for Amazon but also for other organizations, large and small.

At Amazon, innovation constantly transforms their business with results that extend far beyond the company itself. That means success is defined by much more than simple profit; it is defined by broad benefits instead.

How will your leadership with new technology transform your organization?


This article was adapted by Dan Mushalko from our podcast episode How Moonshots & Robots Put Packages on Your Porch.

Thank you for reading our newsletter, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.

We strive to elevate the quality of leadership worldwide. Are you ready? If you are looking for help developing your leaders, explore our services.