I completed my 100th Innovative Leadership interview a couple of weeks ago aired on Voice America on May 30, 2017. In preparation, my host, Dale Meyerrose asked me to reflect on what I had learned and what I put into practice over the past two years—which was likely almost 1,000 hours of prep, interview and follow-up. The challenge was a bit more difficult than I imagined.
Here are a few thoughts about how I got started:
- I ask listeners each week to experiment with their leadership. What most people don’t know is this show started as an experiment. Tacy Trump, the show’s executive producer called and asked if I wanted to do a show. It was a significant financial investment so I wanted to consider what was involved. Ultimately, I committed to a 3-month pilot. I treated it like a learning experiment with the hypothesis that it would help build on the work I had started with the book series. The show just passed the 100-show milestone, so it moved beyond an experiment. Yet, I continue to experiment with new content, different types of formats and different types of guests as well as build on the current robust group of guests. There were parts of the experiment that I refined because they didn’t work as well as I’d envisioned. If most of what we do can be refined and course corrected, then fear of failure is a much smaller inhibitor.
- I selected shows that I found interesting with the hope they would be interesting to listeners. Initially, I wanted to find a theme, but it difficult to pin down what that should be. So at the beginning I just went for interesting, informative, and good to work with. It is only in retrospect that I see the theme and I can now parse it into three categories:
- Strong content that helps people build knowledge such as understanding cyber security and analytics
- Sharing content that helps listeners translate knowledge into ongoing practices and skills, that help leaders be more effective. Some of the most beneficial skills are mindfulness, resilience, and managing thinking—and improving interactions that help them deliver results.
- Sharing a broad range of content that helps listeners build wisdom, by listening to shows that may not directly apply on the surface to a specific need, but that build intellectual versatility and wisdom.
- I also want this show to be used in universities. It would be a shame to not use this robust set of interviews. The leaders who shared their time have offered insights and wisdom. It could be a valuable asset and teaching tool for students and research.
- There were times I felt like Cinderella, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the ball and interview people whose work I had studied and who were winning lifetime achievement awards. I hope our listeners enjoyed hearing from these people as much as I enjoyed interviewing them.
What did you learn from your guests about leadership?
My biggest take away from these interviews is feeling hopeful. I talked to people from across the world working to solve some of the most complicated and intractable problems. They are making progress and they were willing to share their goals, insights, successes, and learnings with our listeners. Many are conducting action research, doing projects and reporting on the results. Practitioners and researchers are teaming up to provide research-based solutions and are researching new approaches to solve emerging challenges we now face.
One of the concepts that strikes me as I write this is that what sets these people apart is how they demonstrate wisdom in action and their willingness to share that wisdom. So, now the challenge is: How do each of us broaden our wisdom? I hope the shows are part of the many sources in your life that help you build your leadership wisdom.
In addition to having great guests, people are listening! We have listeners in 66 countries and the number of listeners increases monthly. I really wanted to make an impact with this show and if number of listens is an indication of success, we are going in the right direction. I would love to hear from our listeners how this show impacts you!
When I reviewed the interviews, six categories emerged.
- Building our resilience and well-being. I start with this section as the foundation because every leader I work with is looking to build his or her capacity to manage the increasing level of complexity and demands in both their personal and professional lives. Leaders across all sectors benefit from a focus on mindfulness, managing thinking, and managing overall health to build the resilience required to navigate the uncertainty and rate of change that is currently present for almost everyone in the world.
- Risk Management. The risks we face as organizational leaders have increased and multiplied. We now must respond to challenges that were not as common as recently as 10 years ago. These topics include how to navigate a smear campaign, cyber security, and building a better understanding of the geopolitical environment.
- Building knowledge, skill, and perspective. Several of the guests offer information designed to expose listeners to new skills and to rethink what they do, how they do it, and how to refine what they are doing. This category speaks to turning knowledge into skills and includes emotional intelligence, building influence, and telling stories. One of our listener favorites is Mike Morrow-Fox talking about the traits of bad bosses and antidotes for dealing with them.
- Becoming a global leader. Sixteen interviews focus on different facets of leading in a global and interconnected environment. These range from learning to manage a multi-cultural workforce to understanding how prejudice impacts leadership effectiveness. George Papandreou, former prime minister of Greece talks about his experience leading Greece, and explores how these experiences relate to leadership in our communities and creating a more fair and just world. These interviews were part of the International Leadership Association Conference and the Global Ties conference. While not everyone works in a global organization, most of us are managing a more diverse workforce, have a broader group of clients, and have suppliers and partners from around the globe. A key theme for this group was building bridges to connect with people across a broad spectrum of factors, culture, and ingrained expectations.
- Realizing our leadership potential, managing your journey. There are several interviews that focus on identifying individual purpose and principles. The foundation for leaders knowing who they are and leading themselves, including Mike Sayre talking about how he used this self-knowledge to identify which CEO role to take and Paul Pyrz talking about identifying and living in possibility, geared toward young leaders. These interviews serve as the foundation for building the inner capacity and mindset to lead. When we think of the shift toward “Level 5” or strategist leadership, this transition involves an inner shift as the foundation for behavioral change. The conversations with Susan Cannon and Mike Morrow-Fox about Strategist leadership competencies and Leadership 2050 epitomize the goal for leaders to work toward. (It was our first show!)
- Creating the capacity to continually evolve organizations. Several interviews focus on how highly effective leaders build their organization’s capacity to evolve continually. They are not just leading a one-time-change initiative, they are building the ability to implement multiple concurrent changes over a period of years. They are transforming their organizations into self-transforming (or evolving) systems. Mike Sayre and Dale Meyerrose talk about navigating the bumps in creating this transformational mindset. Guru Vasudeva talks about implementing Agile and Lean processes and cultures. Joe Gallo talks about shaping companies to navigate industry wide changes. Jim Ritchie Dunham talks about creating vibrant organizations and agreements that serve as the foundation of effective operations in changing times. He also talks about building a team’s capacity to operate at its highest potential rather than the lowest common denominator.
I set out to experiment with hosting a radio show as a mechanism to help leaders develop. Our listeners ultimately determine the success of the shows by their choice to listen. It is insufficient to say that this show has been a learning tool for me. It has given me an amazing opportunity to meet and interview a broad range of organizational, government, nonprofit, and academic leaders. I am more encouraged now than ever before that, as leaders, we can continue to update our leadership “operating system” just like we update our computer software to enable us to meet the challenges we face and create a better world for the generations that follow.
About the author Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.