10 Executive Leadership Insights from a CEO: Dwight Smith

This blog is a collaboration between guest Dwight Smith, experienced CEO and board member of several high-profile organizations, and Maureen Metcalf, CEO Metcalf & Associates, and is a companion to the Voice America Interview with Dwight discussing his executive experience, insights, and the “My Special Word” program.

At this juncture in time, we need great leaders and great leadership! Most of us, at one time or another, have been in the presence of a great leader and can recognize the characteristics of a great leader when we see them—and recognize when they are absent. Leadership development has become increasingly important. As the pace of change accelerates there is a call for a different sort of leadership than leadership of the past. The good news is that this transformational leadership can be found in all sectors. During difficult times, truly exceptional leaders rise to the occasion and take the reins.

According to the PwC CEO Survey for 2017, globalization has brought many benefits but also downsides. With greater convergence has come greater divergence in beliefs, values, and systems. CEOs are concerned about uncertain economic growth, over-regulation, and skills shortages. The focus in 2017 on CEO talent that can address these uncertainties reflects the continuation of a trend over the last several years.

As part of our discussion, Dwight described his top 10 list of beliefs and behaviors that great leadership requires. Although this blog began with referencing the current challenges we face today, these fundamental principles are timeless.

  1. Know your values and live by them—without exception. Values drive decisions and action, and ultimately your legacy. Servant leadership is unselfish, and aims at success for others and win-win situations in which everyone is uplifted. This is where leaders are about the greater good. When we think of the many leaders whose reputations went from positive to negative very quickly, it is often based on a values issue. These leaders sidestepped their values and used their positions of power to intimidate, harass, misappropriate an organizations research, and so on. It is hard to recover from a tarnished reputation because of a values violation.
  2. Find a mentor whose values match yours. We never succeed alone. Success is always a result of learning from those who were role models and who supported us. Some are formal mentors and others modeled who we want to become or avoid becoming. Find people who uplift you, care about you, and have passion for life. Think of the people who don’t see the glass as half full but completely full—it’s just that part of the contents include air.
  3. Find ways to respect and embrace differences. Being with people who are different—in beliefs, in ways of doing things, who have a different perspective—provides us with learning opportunities. Be personal learners. Acknowledge and accept and embrace differences and learn from others who see the world differently. Seek to understand why others see the world differently, but most importantly, respect the differences whether you understand them or not. Multiple perspectives generally create more “durable” solutions.
  4. Act with grace and kindness. Find the goodness in others especially when they are most frustrating to you. This is not to say we lack discernment; we must be both discerning and kind. We must show respect to get respect. When we agree to value differences, we will be stretched into areas that are uncomfortable and, in some cases, frustrating. It is important to be gracious with ourselves as well as others.
  5. Make time to reflect. Set aside time, optimally every day, to dial back electronic connections and replace these with personal reflection, human connection, and inspirational activities such as meditation and prayer. We need time to recharge and refresh our physical bodies and our spirits. We need to reconnect with our values every day—even if it is simply quiet time during a commute.
  6. Be forward thinking and strategic. We are facing dramatic change in our world. It is critical to stay abreast of trends that will impact you directly and tangentially. When you see trends, face them head on, try to understand the impact and identify the opportunities these changes may create for you and your organization. Change always creates opportunity for someone, will you find ways to leverage it?
  7. Find passion and follow it wisely. Whether as a vocation or as a hobby, passion recharges us and gives us purpose. We may find that passion in our full-time jobs or in other areas of life. Dwight is heavily involved in an organization called “My Special Word.” In addition to his demanding work, Dwight invests his time and energy in this program because he is passionate about children and the impact his program creates.
  8. Be personally responsible and accountable. Everyone faces adversity in life. It is unavoidable. How you respond defines who you become. You are responsible for your reactions to events and their impact on yourself and others. We chose how we respond. We have the choice to take responsibility or become victims. How can you develop the capacity to own your situations and make the best of them? Think how many small decisions in life impact your day. Are you responding based on your values and your best self?
  9. Align words and actions. Whether you are aware or not, people are always watching what you do and if your words align with your actions. If your words and deeds conflict, you lose credibility and the trust of others. This can be tricky sometimes because others may not see the nuances you see or understand why you changed course. Communication is a deciding factor. Because others don’t know or see what we see, it is our job to help them understand when they perceive a misalignment. If trust is gone, people are less likely to be engaged and perform at their best for the organization.
  10. Take the time to thank people. Success and the success of an organization are built on team efforts that are the engine driving success or failure, satisfy customers, and deliver value. Make sure that all the members of your team feel appreciated.

Leadership is an honor. We serve an organization’s mission, its employees, its clients, its financial stakeholders, and our communities. We balance many requirements while keeping pace with trends and adjusting our offerings. When done properly, it is as beautiful as a well-rehearsed symphony. How would you score your performance on this top 10 list?

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills. You can download the first three chapters of the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Emerging Leaders and Managers for free.

About the Authors:

Dwight Smith is an experienced Chief Executive Officer with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. Skilled in Budgeting, Business Planning, Analytical Skills, Sales, and Entrepreneurship. Strong business development professional with a MBA focused in Finance from The Ohio State University. Dwight serves on several Boards including the Federal Reserve Board of Cleveland and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Dwight created the “My Special Word” program and organization. My Special Word is a not-for-profit program with the aspiration of inspiring our youth to think about the wonderful people they are and that they hope to become using positive words. Their vision is to encourage, inspire and excite our youth to become the amazing people that they are meant to become and to strive daily to reach their greatest potential and aspirations.

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.

Authenticity and Reflection are Keys to Leadership Success

This blog is a collaboration between guest blogger, BirchReports and Maureen Metcalf, CEO Metcalf & Associates. It is a companion to the Voice America Interview Building Leadership Self-Awareness using Leadership Type with Belinda Gore.

Abraham Lincoln is known for the emancipation of slaves and preserving the Union during the Civil Was. However, did you know that before he entered politics and was elected president, he experienced two business venture failures and lost eight different elections? If not for his persistence, humility, and ability to learn from his mistakes, he would not have managed to continue after multiple defeats, and the America we know today may be entirely different.

What does this story tell us? It’s that self-awareness and self-confidence demand that you learn from everything you do and are the drivers pushing you forward in pursuit of your dreams. Self-awareness and self-confidence allow you to build on successes as well as turn failures into future successes. Humility is a result of being aware of your own foibles. When you can look honestly at your strengths as well as your weaknesses, you’re able to focus on the organization’s greater good rather than personal gain. It is vital in business where change is rapid and ongoing, and where what worked in the past often doesn’t work in the same way it once did. Your future success requires authenticity and your ability to learn from every interaction, and it largely depends on your capacity to build relationships with a broad range of people—whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur. Authenticity and relationships evolve from a sense of self—from self-awareness, self-confidence—and a healthy dose of humility. While self-confidence and humility can seem in opposition, they need to be balanced with finesse because they show up as two sides of the image you project.

We recommend using assessments to help leaders build self-awareness. Metcalf + Associates offers an Innovative Leadership assessment and a Resilience assessment. In addition, the Sofia Wellness Clinic offers a wide range of self-scoring tools to promote self-awareness and wellbeing.

In the Leader 2050 blog, we talked about competency model for leaders of the future, the details about specific behaviors associated with humility, authenticity, and self-awareness, and the importance of collaboration.

To initiate contact with like-minded individuals, you need to put yourself forward, out there—and this requires self-confidence.

So, the next question might be, how do you build your confidence? As with other skills, it does not develop overnight. Instead, you need to build it over time. Below are some things to remember in building self-confidence.

Confidence starts from within and with self-awareness. Confidence is anchored in how you see yourself. In many instances, lack of confidence is rooted in self-doubt. Inc magazine says that having a negative mindset may lead to self-sabotage because you are effectively telling yourself that you cannot accomplish a goal even before you start working toward it. To put it simply, you’re setting yourself up for failure. By developing a practice such as mindfulness, you will be able to increase your self-awareness and increase your capacity to replace self-sabotage with confident self-perception. The video, “Building Resilience: Six Steps to Managing Negative Thinking” is a tool to help you identify and effectively navigate self-destructive thinking when it occurs.

Another option to build self-awareness is a self-evaluation in which you explore the areas in which you lack confidence—and the reasons for your lack of self-assurance. Once you recognize the reasons, determine which ones you can address through mindfulness and managing your thinking. One of the recommendations in the video includes shifting from negative thinking to gratitude. By focusing on what is working and what you’re grateful for—a solid intellect, a well-prepared presentation, the love you feel from friends, family, and colleagues who support you—you will have a more positive outlook. Every time you start to have negative thoughts, use the process in this video to minimize the impact of negative thinking and to increase your self-confidence. This shift requires constant self-awareness and management of your thought process. It is astounding how a small change in mindset and thinking can contribute significantly to your ability to learn from every interaction rather than getting discouraged and losing confidence.

What is often perceived as confidence has to do with how other people perceive you. Networking Times published an anecdote about a woman who gained self-confidence by acting like a confident person. Eventually, she managed to be the same person inside as she appeared on the outside. Being able to act with confidence and manage inner conversations that undermine your image starts with self-awareness and self-management. The concept is not a new one. For years we’re heard about the value of role-playing. It is a process that can take a significant amount of inner work, particularly during those times when self-doubt ebbs and flows.

How can someone’s perception make another more confident? A great portion of what people consider confidence has to do with how you project yourself to others around you. Your appearance, body language, and tone of voice already give others an idea of how you are feeling and what you are thinking, even without listening to the words you are saying. If all three do not inspire trust, then it’s less likely that the person you are conversing with will not hear what you have to say—because you may be giving the message that you are not confident with an idea, service, or product that you are trying to get others to buy in to. In a nutshell, we project to each other. If I present myself as confident and capable, and you perceive me as such, it is mirrored back to me and gives me greater confidence.

As a leader, exhibiting low confidence may also decrease your employees’ self-assurance in their performance of tasks as well. In contrast, if you demonstrate appropriate self-confidence—holding your head high, sitting or standing straight, and speaking assertively instead of haltingly—you are more likely to catch the attention of other people, and you are also more likely to be heard. Self-confidence is an interesting topic when combined with professional humility. In the blog focusing on the Leadership 2050 competencies, we talk about the first competency being professional humility. Like many facets of leadership, it is imperative for leaders to find the best balance between appropriate humility and self-confidence. As we prove ourselves over the course of our careers, it is easier to be humble and self-confident because we already have a strong reputation—and because we have a better understanding of the mistakes we’ve made and can measure our growth over time. Entrepreneur provides some tips that you can follow to help you present yourself with confidence to other people.

Confidence requires preparation. Think about public speakers you hold in high regard. Chances are, you admire them for their confidence and for being knowledgeable about the topics they discuss. The thing is, these speakers did a lot of preparation, including intensive studying, to become well-informed about the subject they approach. It is hard to manage how we are going to feel (self-confident) in a stressful situation, and preparation is a great countermeasure to reduce the number of things that could potentially go wrong. It is tough to be confident when you are running late, get lost, spill coffee on yourself, or realize you don’t know as much about your topic or the audience as you should. Allowing appropriate time to prepare pays great dividends in bolstering confidence. Investing time in preparation will allow you to become more knowledgeable about the topics and people with whom you are talking.
Get Feedback. Lincoln was a man of integrity who used a journal for self-reflection and sought the opinions of others. If there are areas where you believe you may need to build skills to feel confident and perform well, seek feedback from your mentors or colleagues. Often, we build our skills before we feel confident. It takes skill to see ourselves the way others see us, so getting ongoing feedback allows us to calibrate our sense of self with how others see us. Accurate self-awareness is one of the most important skills in leadership because if we are unaware of how others see us, we miss important cues. Self-awareness, self-confidence, and humility are intertwined. As leaders, we need to continually practice and evolve these skills.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

The 4 Key Insights of Holistic Frameworks – An Intelligence For Planetary Survival

This blog is a companion to the interview with Christopher and Sheila Cooke on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on October 24, 2017, Navigating Through The Holistic Worldview Membrane to offer further insights into the deeper application of the science of Human Emergence. This post was written by Christopher Cooke.

The term, Human Emergence, defines a new understanding that explains how and why civilizations have shifted through 8 dominant paradigms over the past 120,000 years. Each shift can be shown to have been triggered by the inability of a given worldview to cope with increasingly complex problems. Such problems may be caused by nature, or more recently in the last 10,000 years mankind’s mismanagement of resources.

The most recent stage, the eighth stage, has become known as ‘a holistic worldview’. This worldview is an ‘intelligence for planetary survival’. It is minimalistic and seems set to ensure the recovery and regeneration of all life-forms on Earth. Compared to the conventional thinking of today this is a radical shift and whilst some individuals are increasingly able to think through problems from a holistic stance, the full utilization of this worldview is being resisted; it’s like pushing against a membrane.

One way in which this worldview is becoming visible is through the development and utilization of holistically-informed frameworks. Think of a holistic-framework as a basic structure that when applied stimulates holistically informed thinking. When such a stance is adopted it appears that decisions are made that can handle the ‘wicked problems’. This interview offered the Holistic Management Framework developed by Allan Savory as an example of a holistically-informed framework. This has been successfully applied since 1985, across contexts that range from national governance to agriculture. We also discussed how our work itself is supported by a holistically informed, Human Emergence Framework, that they have developed.

All holistically informed frameworks share the same 4 key insights. These are summarized as:

  • Key Insight 1: The Universe functions in wholes.
  • Key Insight 2: The primary principles and processes of Universe show through in all environments and life-forms, including the human body and mind.
  • Key Insight 3: There are biological and psychological life cycles.
  • Key Insight 4: Behavioral freedom varies according to stage of development.

For leadership and management today these 4 insights mean that:

  • Holism is a necessary awareness;
  • Decision making needs to consider the biological-psychological-cultural and social systems dynamics of the people and local habitat,
  • Timing is everything;
  • Solutions work when the appropriate level of thinking is applied.

One example is, using a diagnostic method from The Holistic Management Framework to help a farmer discover why a certain field had been overtaken by rushes in recent years. He had previously used the small paddock along a riverbank to graze a few sheep, and had tried a variety of different technologies to get rid of the rushes. He dug drainage ditches, cut the reeds with grass cutters, taken the animals away for long periods, and even applied herbicides.

Part way through the process that included his consideration of the health of his ecosystem, his previous decision making, the local cultural norms, and the typical technologies used in this locality, he had a big realization. He clapped his hand to his forehead and burst out laughing saying, “every technology I used naturally leads to rushes!” After further thought he said, “and you know, if you looked up on the Internet how to get rid of rushes, you would find a list of everything I tried!”

His final solution was to learn to use the animals as tools, to stimulate the growth of grass based upon a new awareness of the dynamic inter-relationship between the two species.

His discovery required the adoption of a holistic awareness; an understanding of the complex relationship between, climate, soil, plants, animals and humans; an awareness of the times of biological weakness of the grasses, rushes and animals; and the use of solutions that worked with natures flows, rather than using technologies that interfered.

Holistic thinking literally reframes everything we believe to be true!

If you wonder about your thinking and world view, we recommend you take the assessments created by 5Deep, click on shop and select Personal Emergence Bundle Assessments and Guides. This package is a great deal and Christopher and Sheila guide you through assessment use in their prior interview series with participants who took the assessments.

About the author

Christopher Cooke, (MSc. B.A. FellowRSA) is the founder and a lead consultant for 5 Deep. He is an international senior manager, consultant, coach, confidante, counsellor, therapist, trainer and qualified engineer, with over 28 years’ experience in pioneering and supporting personal and organizational change. He is focused on the release of latent human capacities to navigate gracefully through complexity, innovation and change. Christopher has become a leading figure in the practical demonstration of The Graves Technology, Spiral Dynamics, and Integral Theory since 1997. His commitment and focus has seen application in as many contexts as possible. To listen to other shows by Christopher and Sheila Cooke, check out their Voice America guest page for additional information.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

Leveraging Multigenerational Leadership – Navigating the Graying Demographic in the Workplace and Marketplace

This blog is a companion to the interview with Karen Sands on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on October 24, 2017 Navigating the Graying Demographic: Rock Your Age and Manage Inter-generationally. It was co-written by Karen Sands and Maureen Metcalf. It is the companion to the Voice America Interview with Karen Sands.

According to Steve Vernon in MoneyWatch June 2016, “The bottom line is that we’re living much longer than prior generations, but we can’t afford to keep adding years at the end of our lives when we’re fully retired and no longer working. Therefore, it only makes sense to work longer, but we’ll want to take steps to make these additional working years enjoyable and productive.”

Whether you are excited about the prospect of working until you are into your 80’s or 90’s or terrified, as leaders we all need to think about how the longevity economy will impact our workforce and our customers. As people live longer and work longer, their work habits and buying habits will change.

The intersection of people living and working longer, combined with the rapid acceleration of changes in how organizations conduct work, will lead us to a new Triple Bottom Line—people, planet, profits. s. But, only if organizations can overcome the immense challenges coming our way in the Longevity Economy- – representing an increase of the sum of economic activity of services and goods serving the 50+ demographic from $7.1 Trillion today to over $13.5 Trillion by 2032. Businesses that choose to leverage the largest pool of multigenerational skilled and knowledge workers to engage and capture the new ageless consumers as clients will beat the competition hands down. This big shift will foster creative processes to leverage the business acumen and skills of seasoned workers, along with the adaptability and tech finesse of younger workers will create a strategic advantage.

This more diverse workplace comes with great opportunities and significant challenges. Organizations will need to find ways to overcome the “generational gap” associated with the perception that older employees are “taking jobs” from younger employees and are not keeping current with technology, therefore less productive. Or from the mature employees point of view, the Millennials are “lazy” and don’t have work ethics of yesteryear. Here are some recommendations Karen suggests:

First, we need to communicate with each other about it. This seems obvious, but how often do the generations really talk about this situation with each other? It tends to get talked about through politicians and the media, rather than in collaborative, hands-on, deliberately multigenerational conversations.

These conversations are crucial not only to get our fears and perceptions out in the open, but also to clear up the misconceptions that can lead us all to make decisions based on incorrect information or assumptions.

Second, we need to explore alternative solutions together based on the probable future, not the past. Yes, social security was an effective solution to many problems that stemmed from the Great Depression, and it continues to be a necessary element in our economy, but pursuing ways to once again push millions of post-65/70 people out of the workforce is not going to work. Being 65/70 today is not even close to what it was in prior eras.

Third, we should look at generational partnerships, such as job sharing/mentorship arrangements that enable two people to be employed instead of one, enable training costs and salary to combine, stretching a company’s dollar and quickening the pace at which younger employees can gain the skills, knowledge, and some of the experience they need to be more valuable to that company and in the marketplace. These could work with a shifting percentage of time, starting with the mentor working 3/4 of the job, then gradually decreasing to 1/2, then 1/4, with an ultimate shift into mentoring another employee or into a consultant arrangement.

Fourth, we need to encourage people over 60 (in fact over 40) to remain employed by starting their own businesses as entrepreneurs or by creating new profit centers within their current companies and organizations. These could range from simple solopreneurs to larger operations that will both remove the competition for the same job between two generations, while it generates additional employment.

People, organizations, and governments need to focus on encouraging experienced professionals and executives, especially women, to start businesses with a strong focus on the Triple Bottom Line In this way, we can solve or at least ameliorate multiple societal problems simultaneously through the specific social missions of these companies as well as their effect on the job market, offering a way for all generations to make a living and a difference, and to secure their future and that of the world for generations to come. This means many leaders will need to expand their perspective about how jobs get accomplished and by whom.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills. You can download the first three chapters of the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Emerging Leaders and Managers for free.

About the Authors:

Karen Sands, MCC, BCC is a Visionary Game Changer and Leading GeroFuturist™ on the Longevity Economy, the Business of Aging, and Ageless Aging. An advocate for The New Story of Our Age, she is a “visionary with wrinkles” who empowers people to rock their AGE. High-impact Certified Master & Mentor Coach for visionary world shakers, conscious entrepreneurs, sacred activists and change makers 40+ who are ready to shape the world and their role in it. A Trusted Advisor and expert authority on careers post 40, midlife reinvention, Boomers and women 40+ in the new business of aging for go-getters who want to stay in sync with the people who keep them in business. #1 Amazon Best Selling Author, Firecracker Speaker and All-Around Trailblazing Game Changer.

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.

Leaders Must Now Think Like Scientists

This post is a companion to the Voice America show, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations. An important foundation of the radio show is curating material that allows busy leaders to stay current with minimal time investment and encourages you to experiment with new behaviors each week. It is these small experiments that will allow you as leaders to stay up to date in a world that is changing so quickly. If you have not listened to the show, we invite you to sign up for notifications and listen to the next one that you find interesting or look at the range of speakers and topics and find one you want to learn more about.

This article is a reprint of the article from September 2016. During the industrial revolution, leaders managed effectively using command and control and leveraging best practices to solve problems that were common across multiple industries.

Now, however, the most effective leaders work more like scientists. They scan best practices, but also create competitive advantage by creating new and innovative solutions in the face of chaos.

Take Bill, a recent client who runs a mortgage firm in the U.K. June’s vote to exit the EU has thrown the British economy into uncertainty. Rates are dropping and the forecast is uncertain. Bill doesn’t know which direction the market will go, how fast, and what actions will be most effective. He looked to thought leaders before the vote and learned that a true Brexit was unlikely. Well, it happened, and now he needs to move forward and make the best of the uncertainty. The change might even be good for him if he makes the right calls

Many leaders, like Bill, are facing unprecedented challenges. In the past, they could look to best practices and study what others in their industry were doing. Now, in many situations, leaders need to respond immediately, but there is little time to study and no prior model with the same level of complexity that provides a low-risk solution. As leaders, we weren’t trained for this. We were trained to set a vision, build a plan, and work the plan.

With the advent of such changes, companies are responding with strategies like “cross-functional” teams, “early delivery,” and “continuous improvement.” Terms such as “fail fast” — which tell us we need to experiment and learn faster than our competition — have become popular. Learning fast differentiates us from our competitors who are still looking for the best practices. In reality, we are the ones creating the next round of best practices.

But many of us are still stuck between the old ways and new ways of leadership. We haven’t fully embraced what it means to be a leader today and now. First and foremost, we need to rethink our role. We need to change our mindset and behavior from directing to experimenting while realizing that as leaders in complex times, we are creating new solutions rather than drawing from the past. In many situations, history will determine what was right, but if we expect to know it before we take action, we will be paralyzed.

So, what do we do?

One of the most difficult challenges for leaders isn’t changing behavior (that’s the easy part) — it’s changing how we think of ourselves. It is easy to say, “I will act like a scientist,” but when someone comes in with a challenge and the leader has no idea how to proceed, this is a moment of truth. The leader without an answer will likely feel embarrassed and frustrated. The scientist, on the other hand, might actually be excited about the challenge.

As we begin to change our mindset, we begin to approach our leadership as a scientist. Here’s how to get started:

1. Get the best people together for specific opportunities. The members will be dictated by the challenge. It is critical to have people with differing points of view. The people who disagree are often the most important to help identify blind spots and unanticipated challenges. The size of the group and the duration of discussions and evaluation will depend on the time required to respond. The participants should be from multiple geographies, functional departments and organizations.

2. Formulate a hypothesis. The group pulls together all of the perspectives and crafts a clear hypothesis of how to proceed to generate the best overall outcome given the resources, goals and constraints.

3. Formulate experiments. Using the hypothesis as the foundation, it is time to craft experiments that test the hypothesis. Experiments should be designed to prove or disprove the initial hypothesis and give enough information to support taking informed action going forward. The goal is to position the organization to take timely action, minimize risk, and maximize positive impact and learning and scale intelligently based on learning.

4. Conduct the experiment. Once the experiment is crafted, it is time to execute. This usually looks like implementing a well-defined pilot with clearly articulated metrics designed to prove or disprove the initial hypothesis. This is also the opportunity to identify barriers to proper execution.

5. Evaluate, learn and refine. One of the keys to experimentation is to learn as much as possible from each experiment to build success. This is where you will harvest your learnings form the measures as well as barriers or challenges that arose.

I work with a client who formerly worked as a physicist for NASA and now runs an organization heavily impacted by technology change. The culture of his organization is one of experimentation because it is natural to him. When I walk into his office, I see remnants of physical experiments, like a part of a drone, and the tone of the entire organization is open and excited. The physical space is one of the worst I have seen, so it isn’t the architecture but rather the tone of the leader. The leader’s mindset permeates the culture and the organizational systems. People are rewarded for launching new programs and eliminating those that are less effective.

Moving toward this mindset of experimentation allows us to master transformation and build the capacity for ongoing “renovation” of our organization. If this ability to respond quickly becomes a core competency of the organization, because of the mindset of the leader and the resulting culture, organizations are positioned to thrive. For leaders who take on the mindset of the scientist, experimentation becomes fun, they drive interesting innovation, and they inspire others to do the same.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the author Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Innovative Leadership Institute, 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.

What Do Leaders DO to build “Level 5” Organizations?

This blog is a companion to the interview with Geoff Fitch and Terri O’Fallon on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on Sept 19, 2017, Is There Such A Thing As A ‘Level 5’/Teal Organization -Part 2. This post was written by Geoff Fitch, MA.

As a Level 5 leader, we know our own personal development is key to our ability to meet the complex challenges we face in today’s world. In our last post, Terri O’Fallon noted that working with individual and organizational shadow is one of the most challenging parts of the life and development of a Level 5 (Strategist) Leader. An important part of this process is to understand our own personal shadow – the projections and assumptions we are unaware of that often set the limits of the solutions we imagine.

But what is Organizational Shadow and how can we work with it? You can think of shadow as the ways we push things out of our awareness that we don’t want to or can’t handle. Level 5 leaders understand that the organizational field of play doesn’t just include what we see, it also includes the unconscious territory, and that it is our obligation to work to uncover what’s hidden in it. You can think of shadow as a form of self-deception. As an individual, we blame others without looking at our own projections we put on them, and miss how we may be just as at fault.

At an Organizational level, you can think of shadow as one step beyond what is undiscussable. Organizational Shadow is what is unthinkable. When there is something that an organization or team is not dealing with, often what happens is that it “projects” that issue on one of its staff member or departments. Someone or some group in the organization will compensate for the lack of attention to the issue at an organizational level. But because the need is unconscious, instead of being appreciated for the initiative, they will often be vilified for it. Why are they paying attention to something that is obviously not an organizational priority or perhaps even one of their responsibilities?

In our interview, we discussed just such a case in which a healthcare executive had taken on action to address some compliance problems the organization was facing. These problems were an organizational issue that was not being dealt with effectively by leadership at all levels. So, she stepped in and took the issue on, even though it was outside her responsibility. The result was she became a source of conflict and eventually became ill from the stress. Once the executive team identified the Organizational Shadow, clarified the cultural blocks to effectively dealing with compliance issues and took this on as a core organizational imperative, owned by the whole team, the conflict disappeared and the executive’s health recovered. It was a striking example of Organizational Shadow at work.

In hindsight, it might seem like an obvious challenge to address, but when we are caught in shadow, it can be very difficult to see. What is unseen in your organization? What persistent challenges might point to a core truth you are not willing, as an organization, to face?

These four approaches are helpful in exploring and resolving organizational shadow issues. Each of these four strategies also point to capacities that Level 5 (Strategist) leaders bring to their organizations.

  1. Identify the conflict.

Organizational shadow produces conflict. Usually there is personal, role or strategic conflict surrounding the issue as the unidentified organizational need creates tension in the system. Yet how we see that conflict often misleads us from the underlying issue. Often there is a person or group that gets the need “projected” on them and consequently becomes scapegoated or marginalized. This happened in our example, when the executive tried to get others to face a problem and was consequently seen as problem in the organization. When looking at an area of struggle, ask yourself – might someone be getting scapegoated here? This takes us out of the blame mindset and helps us begin to see the problem more systemically – a key Level 5 move.

  1. Turn the problem into an organizational need.

Looking at the issue systemically, you can notice often that we ascribe negative qualities to the potentially scapegoated person or group and ask, do these qualities actually represent something we need to have more of, not less of? The executive in our case had turned into a kind of enforcer, which directly conflicted with the collegial reciprocity at the core of the organizational culture. It was a friendly place, and her behavior was clashing. Asking the turnaround question, we could clearly see ways in which the organization needed more of what she was bringing. In its open friendly culture, the team avoided effectively dealing with the black and white issues that required them to confront themselves. Because of this, she had become the ‘cop’ and alienated herself from everyone on the team. Now, her ‘difficult behavior’ was seen as a needed organizational capacity. Level 5 Leaders bring this capacity to identify and integrate organizational polarities that otherwise may seem in conflict.

  1. Determine how and why the organizational need has been disowned.

In this example, we can see that the organizational need was disowned because it seemed to come in conflict with their culture, which they highly valued. There was an implicit assumption that there was no way to deal with compliance consistent with their culture. Level 5 leaders see these organizational assumptions as the key drivers of thinking, behavior and results. They also see them as discussable and changeable. Uncovering organizational shadow allows us to see exactly how these hidden drivers of organizational performance have been operating. After identifying the conflict, scapegoating dynamic, and underlying organizational need, it is important to discover the way this process has functioned – what mindsets, thinking, decisions and behaviors have held it in place.

  1. Take collective ownership of the organizational need.

In our case, solutions to this contradiction became obvious, once the team surfaced out of the shadow. The first step to implementing a solution is to collectively take ownership for the need. Organizational Shadow often points to systemic shifts that need to take place in values, priorities, and behaviors. In the healthcare case, once the problem was identified, the executive team made a commitment to own the problem across the organization. This action immediately relieves the scapegoat of excessive responsibility for the issue and is a critical step in resolving the shadow and ensuring it does not persist. From there, specific strategies and tactics to address the need can be implemented.

In our interview, we also talk about how the very organizational capacities Level 5 leaders foster, particularly social safety and adaptability, are essential for uncovering Organizational Shadow. What makes these issues unlike other organizational challenges is that they are unseen because we are actively, and often unconsciously, avoiding them. In order for teams to be willing to explore these hidden assumptions and areas of conflict, leaders need to bring a culture of trust, safety, and curiosity. We find that, when this is in place, most teams are more than willing, and are often relieved, to bring light to what is in the shadow.


About Geoff Fitch

Geoff Fitch is a coach, trainer, and facilitator of change in individuals and organizations, and a creator of transformative leadership education programs worldwide. He is a founder of Pacific Integral with Terri O’Fallon PhD, where he was instrumental in the development of the internationally-acclaimed Generating Transformative Change program, now offered three continents and in it’s 24th cohort. Through these programs, he has researched and developed novel approaches to transformative change in individuals and human systems. Geoff brings over 30 years experience in business, management and organizational leadership, including 18 years in in management in the computer industry and 15 years as a consultant, coach and trainer in leadership. He has been exploring diverse approaches to cultivating higher human potentials for over 25 years. He holds a master’s degree in Transpersonal Psychology from Sofia University and B.S. in Computer Science, magna cum laude, from Boston University.

Learn more about Geoff’s work at

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

Proven Path to Leadership Maturity and Effectiveness

This post is a companion to the Voice America interview featuring Mike Morrow-Fox talking about leadership maturity and vertical development to build the leadership qualities required to lead large complex organizations and those that aspire to make the greatest impact.

The following article was first published by Forbes Coaches Council in August 2016.

Future trends indicate complexity, accelerated change, and near-constant uncertainty in the coming years. These conditions will require significantly different leadership skills.

With these new demands for evolving leadership, is there a predictable path to develop leadership? If so, what does that path look like?

Leaders develop both “horizontally,” increasing their ability at their current level of operation, and “vertically,” increasing their level of complexity, emotional maturity, and opening to new awareness. Many researchers are now saying that “vertical development” is required to navigate the complexities leaders and their organizations face.

To answer what the vertical evolutionary path looks like, I reference the research of Dr. Cook-Greuter, who developed a Leadership Maturity Framework (LMF) and measurement of adult development as part of her doctoral dissertation at Harvard University. Dr. Cook-Greuter is now the Co-Founder with Beena Sharma of The Center for Leadership Maturity, a firm that facilitates vertical development in individuals, teams and organizations. The LMF is the basis of my work with vertical leadership development because it provides a model that is both grounded in research and practical to use in coaching and leadership development.

Vertical development does not mean that more developed people are “better” people, but rather, in many cases, are likely to be more effective in key leadership roles within large complex organizations. The following is a brief summary of the LMF describing the predictable developmental trajectory people navigate as they grow:

The Group-Centric Level

This level is about conforming and belonging. People at this level follow rules, norms and observe hierarchy. They conform to social expectations, work to group standards, seek membership and approval, and appreciate outward signs of status as a sign of approval. They attend to the welfare of their own group; those who are not like them are the “other,” and therefore outside their circle of concern. They avoid conflict, think in simple terms, and often speak in generalities. Feedback is taken as disapproval since their driving value is to gain approval and be included.

Example: This is the employee who looks to what the group is doing to determine his actions. He looks to meet the “expectations” set by the organization, fit into the culture, and do what everyone does. Belonging is his key to success; standing out or having a different opinion feels risky

The Skill-Centric Level

This focuses on comparing self to others and perfecting skills. Individuals at this level focus on being competent in their own area of interest and improving techniques and efficiency. They aspire to quality standards and are often heavily invested in their way as the only way of doing things. Decisions are made based on incontrovertible “facts.” Given their focus on problem-solving and detail, they can get caught in the weeds and not see the big picture necessary to effectively prioritize among competing demands. All consuming attention on being right can lead them to be critical of and competitive with others. They hear feedback about their work as criticism of them as a whole person.

Example: This is the employee who points out when others make mistakes and tries to correct them so they can meet the standards. Her development efforts focus on building expertise. She usually has a “better” opinion unless she is in the presence of a subject-matter expert.

The Self-Determining Level

This focuses on analyzing and achieving to effectively deliver results. Leaders at this level look toward longer-term goals and initiate rather than follow expectations. They value objectivity and scientific knowledge, seeking rational, proactive ways around problems. They often seek consensus — “agree to disagree” — and value mutuality and equality in relationships. They accept feedback to promote learning and success.

Example: This employee continually drives to meet organizational goals. He works both efficiently and effectively and is continually competing with himself and others to drive the best results. He has a five-year plan, is open to new learning, and is beginning to be more reflective.

The Self-Questioning Level

This level focuses on self in relationship and contextualizing his/her experience. Leaders at this level are concerned with the difference between reality and appearance and have an increased understanding of complexity and unintended effects of actions. They begin to question their own assumptions and views and realize the subjectivity of beliefs; and talk of interpretations rather than facts. They can play different roles in different contexts and begin to seek out and value feedback.

Example: This employee is continually inquiring, challenging assumptions, and aware of the limitations of conventional thinking. She focuses on creating an environment where everyone feels valued. She is committed to appreciating value in different perspectives.

The Self-Actualizing Level

This level is about integrating and transforming self and systems, and recognizing higher principles, complexity and interrelationships. People at this level are aware of the social construction of reality — not just rules and customs. They are problem finding, not just doing creative problem solving. They are aware of paradox and contradiction in self and systems and learn to have a deep appreciation of others. They demonstrate a sensitivity to systemic change and create “positive-sum” games.

Example: This person is continually evaluating the organization’s strategy against long-term industry trends as well as global economic conditions while embodying her values and using herself as an instrument of transformation. She is self-aware and firmly anchored in principles while having the ability to adapt based on context.

As we look to the changes leaders are facing in the near and long term, it is helpful to have a robust model for development that allows them to focus their development energy effectively. This framework, along with it, measurement instrument — the maturity assessment for professionals (MAP) — is the most robust I have seen, and I find it highly effective in supporting leaders.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the author Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Innovative Leadership Institute, 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.

Physician Leadership: Flipping the Leadership Paradigm

This blog was written as a companion to the VoiceAmerica Interview with Dr. Wiley “Chip” Souba, MD, ScD, MBA on August 15, Physician Leadership, Flipping the Leadership Paradigm. This blog is the forward written by Dr. Souba for the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Physician Leaders. His focus is the leadership required now to address the volume of change in health care.

By any objective measure, the amount of painful, gut-wrenching change in health care continues to increase. Transformational change is always traumatic because in the process of taking it on, each of us must, in a very real sense, reinvent ourselves. We must change our assumptions, our cognitive frameworks, our ways of being and acting, and our ways of collaborating with one another. Jettisoning our familiar practices that are holding us back may make sense intellectually but rewiring the neural networks that underpin these habits can be overwhelming. It is no wonder that we don’t greet change with open arms. Understandably, we avoid significant change like the plague.

Avoidance, however, is no longer an option. Intense pressure from powerful stakeholders – big business, patients, legislators, and payers – is driving the healthcare transformation imperative. This leaves us with three options. We can choose to disengage, arguing that the health care conundrum is too complex to tackle, not our problem, and certainly not our fault. In so doing, we shortchange the future of our children and most Americans. Secondly, we could decide to continue pounding away, hoping for a future that is a continuation of the past. Hope is a good thing but it is not an executable strategy.1 Lastly, we can choose to revise the way in which we think about (make sense of) these challenges, and more specifically, revise the way in which we develop physicians who are more effective leaders going forward. Until and unless we re-language (reframe) our challenges, we will not alter, in any kind of meaningful way, our results.

How do we shift our thinking when the shackles of our long-standing cognitive maps are so entrenched and hidden? This workbook offers several assessments, tools, and practices to help you, as a leader, begin to examine your thinking and identify areas where you may need to transcend your current practices. While this process is not an easy one – it invites you to change how you see yourself in the world – it is an important part of developing yourself as a physician leader in a complex and convoluted environment.

Creating Leaders

Teaching people about leadership is different from creating leaders.2 Teaching leadership uses a third-person approach to impart someone else’s knowledge, which grants learners limited access to the being and actions of effective leaders. In contrast, creating leaders requires a first-person methodology, which provides direct access to what it means to be a leader and what it means to exercise good leadership in real time, with real results. Many health care transformation efforts run amuck because they overlook this distinction. This workbook emphasizes the inner work of leading oneself as well as the outer process of connecting personal values and actions to the organization’s culture. Leaders use the innovative leadership framework to learn what it is to be a leader and what it means to exercise leadership behaviors effectively by making use of a model that distinguishes being a leader as the foundation for the leader’s actions.

Why is the being of leadership foundational? Simply, because if you’re not being a leader, it is impossible to act like a leader.3 Because our understanding of what it means to be – a physician, a medical student, a researcher, a leader – is changing, a more effective approach to developing leaders starts with four pillars of being a leader – awareness, commitment, integrity, and authenticity – as the ontological foundation for what leaders know and do.4 This way of understanding leadership is core to the basic tenets of professionalism. The workbook will walk you through a series of self-assessments and reflection questions to increase your level of conscious awareness. You will build a development plan and enlist a support group in helping you meet your goals thereby creating an implicit commitment to yourself and to your team. The exercises and reflection questions invite you to examine what you believe and how those beliefs impact your actions. When they are not aligned, you will identify the misalignments and have the opportunity to bring your actions into integrity with your beliefs and to act in ways that are authentic.

Accessing Leadership

When we think of the word “access,” it tends to bring to mind the notion of making something available so as to utilize it, apply it, or take advantage of it (e.g., our bank account, the internet, the patient’s medical record). The idea that leadership is something we access may seem odd as we generally think of leadership as an ability that people just have or don’t have. However, when we recognize that leadership is about expanding our range of ways of being, thinking, and behaving so we can be more effective in dealing with those challenges for which conventional strategies are inadequate, the notion of access makes more sense.5 Without the ability to access new ways of being and acting, we will default to what is comfortable whenever we are called to take on a major leadership challenge and our results will be mediocre at best. The innovative leadership framework in this workbook combines personality-type tools to help you understand your innate inclinations and how they impact your leadership capabilities. The framework also includes a developmental perspective that looks at how you make meaning of the world. It is this meaning-making process that matures through a series of stages that increases your capacity as a leader. The workbook is designed to help you as a leader identify your current competence and build it, thereby giving you greater access to your personal leadership capacity.

Access to leadership occurs primarily through first-person and third-person approaches, although the former tends to be disregarded. Observing leaders – and then describing, measuring, and categorizing their behaviors and traits – uses a third-person methodology. This third-person approach to studying leadership, which emphasizes what leaders know, have, and do, is theoretical and inferential but continues to be the most common leadership pedagogy.2 Theories, explanations, and textbooks provide us with third-person access to leadership, but, in and of themselves, they do not impart what is required to be a leader, much as textbooks do not teach what it is to be a physician.

Rather than teaching leadership from a theoretical (third-person) vantage point, the first-person perspective teaches leadership as it is experienced. It is important to recognize that you and I do not lead from a theoretical standpoint; rather, we lead moment-to-moment, situation-to-situation in the way we experience leadership “as lived,” that is, from a first-person point of view.6 Such subjective experiences (first-person data) cannot be described using a third-person perspective. The distinctiveness of the first-person “as-lived/lived-through” approach lies in its capacity to disclose the hidden contexts that shape the ways of being, thinking, and acting that are the source of the leader’s performance.2 When one exercises leadership “as lived,” concurrently informed by theories, one tends to be in one’s “A” game. When using this workbook, you will be directly engaging in leadership development activities and reflection practices. This workbook is an attempt to integrate first-person and third-person learning. The first two chapters focus on the third-person theoretical frameworks of innovative leadership and physician leadership competencies. The book then shifts from third-person to first-person perspective as it asks you, as the leader, to complete a series of worksheets and reflection questions that explore yourself as an authentic person. You will explore your personal vision and values then develop a plan that helps you build yourself into the leader who can bring that vision into the world in a manner that is consistent with your values. The majority of the book is designed to lead you through an interactive process that helps you have the first-hand experience of yourself being a leader.

In order to gain access to more effective ways of leading, we must first expose our engrained beliefs and worldviews about leadership (e.g., I can’t look incompetent, I need to be right, I must have the answers) that are limiting us. This will allow us to relax those limiting (and often veiled) ways of being and acting that have become our automatic go-to formulas (e.g., making excuses, not holding ourselves and others accountable, blaming others) that actually constrain our freedom to lead.4 By probing this space you will explore your worldviews in general and your leadership presuppositions specifically. The authors recommend you take the MAP assessment to determine your worldview along with other assessments that help you determine your personality type and leadership behaviors. The combination of tools will give you a comprehensive view of who you are and what you do.

Mastering Language

The primary tool we use to gain access to leadership is language. In other words, discourse (with ourselves and others) is the medium through which we access and understand the world. Language allows us to bring our leadership challenges into sharper focus, allowing us to see details and “make sense” more clearly. Thus, the transformative power of language resides in its ability to create new futures. This workbook will immerse you in journaling exercises and conversations with others who are engaging in a similar process, thereby establishing a supportive network. Thus, the transformative power of conversation with your support team, in conjunction with the journaling exercises, you will create your own new futures through who you are becoming as leaders.

Because many of the changes that are taking place in health care are inevitable, mastering context as a leader is critical. Content (i.e., whatever we are dealing with) is always perceived through a linguistic context and, as human beings, we have the freedom to recontextualize our leadership challenges by shifting the context. Once we shift our context, “we can be a different kind of leader. When we change our thinking and speaking, a different reality becomes available to us. Shifts in our mental maps generate new possibilities for actions and outcomes not previously accessible. Only by means of language can we lead ourselves, each and every day, to become the wiser, more effective leaders that we must become.”6 The workbook aids you in your process of recontextualizing by using a framework for reflection questions that ask you: What are your beliefs? Why do you do what you do? What do we, as an organization, value? How do we produce this value through our systems and processes? In revisiting your leadership challenges using this analytical approach, they will become more accessible and more “hittable.”7

Curiously, as your leadership evolves, you will likely discover that the increase in your effectiveness won’t be, first and foremost, because you acquired another technical skill – rather, it will be because the context inside of which you operate has changed.5 A different “you” will show up. In other words, the improvement in your effectiveness will be less the result of having grasped some new theory and more a function of having altered the context through which you “perceive” your leadership challenges. This amazing capacity – to go beyond our ordinary selves to unleash our best selves – is unique to human beings and is only possible because we are not determined by a what, like an entity, but by a who that is shaped by our choices over time.6

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Dr. Wiley “Chip” Souba MD, ScD, MBA has been Vice President for Health Affairs at Dartmouth College and as Dean of Dartmouth Medical School since October 1, 2010. Dr. Souba served as Dean of the College of Medicine and as Vice President and Executive Dean of Health Sciences at The Ohio State University. In 1999, he was named Waldhausen Professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery at the Penn State College of Medicine and Surgeon-in-Chief at Hershey Medical Center. He became Dean of The Ohio State University College of Medicine in 2006. He serves as a Trustee of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. He is one of the top surgical oncologists in the country, is also a scientific researcher whose studies on amino acid metabolism, as related to the development of cancer of the intestine, have been funded by the National Institutes of Health and reported in over 300 peer-reviewed scientific articles.


  1. Souba W. Brock Starr: a leadership fable. Journal of Surgical Research. 2009. 155: 1-6.
  2. Souba W. The phenomenology of leadership. Open Journal of Leadership. In press.
  3. Souba W. The science of leading yourself: A missing piece in the healthcare reform puzzle. Open Journal of Leadership 2013; 2 (3): 45–55.
  4. Souba W. The being of leadership. Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine 2011; 6 (5). Available at
  5. Souba W. Health care transformation begins with you. Academic Medicine. In press. Available at
  6. Souba W. Rethinking Leadership Development. The Pharos, Summer 2014, 2-6. Available at
  7. Souba W. A new model of leadership performance in health care. Acad Med 2011; 86: 1241–52.


How to be Innovative – Ask Inciting Questions

This guest blog was written as a companion to the VoiceAmerica Interview with Tamara Kleinberg, founder of LaunchStreet on August 1, Translate Success Today To Success Tomorrow Using Innovation. In the interview and the blog, Tamara explores the art and science of innovation – how to create a culture and mindset of innovation.

How to be innovative is found in the questions not the answers. But we have to pick our questions wisely. If we ask the same questions in the same way and even of the same people, it’s no surprise that we get the same answers. And those answers are the usually the incremental ones. Or, maybe it’s slightly better but not enough to make an impact.

If you want more breakthrough thinking, you’ve got to change from usual questions to inciting questions.

What’s the difference? Well, usual questions are the questions you always ask. Yes, they sound smart, even right. But, most likely you’ve been asking the same questions for a while. Or, maybe it’s the same questions everyone in your category is asking. Or, maybe it’s the question that leads you down the same path to the obvious answer. Usual questions become almost a matter of habit at every brainstorm. Here’s the challenge. Yes, those are questions you want answered. But, given their customary nature, you’re not going to get to those innovative ideas you need. You know this because you see it over and over again. Unlike, inciting questions. To incite is to stir, to encourage to stimulate, to prompt.

Inciting questions take you down new paths to those provocative answers you were looking for.

I found that there are two ways to tackle inciting questions. One is to ask questions that shake up your assumptions. Questions like:

  • What would happen if we didn’t solve that challenge?
  • What would it look if we did the opposite of what we usually do?

Or, before we go into solution mode, let’s work backward.

  • What’s the problem that caused the problem?

It’s funny, that last one gets people all stirred up because we want to quickly move into solution mode and assume the first problem we identify is the one we should be solving. I think our clients will tell you that when we start digging in, we find that the first challenge we are solving is not always the right one if we want to get to lasting change and results.

So the second way to ask inciting questions is to challenge the big assumptions in your category.

It’s really challenging the assumptions about how things should be done in your world. Here are a few of my favorite examples from organizations you know and some I think you’ll be excited to get to know. Why do cars have to be either fuel efficient or sexy? Tesla – sustainable and sexy cars. Why do razors need to be on store shelves at the grocery store? Dollar Shave Club – subscription razor service. Who says you have to go to the grocery store for your food? Instacart – grocery delivery. Why do libraries have to be a warehouse of books? Anythink Libraries – the lowest funded library district in Colorado and the outdated come check a book model and turned them into a beacon of discovering their communities and is elevating the entire library world with their innovations.

What are the big hairy assumptions in your world? What would happen if you flip those assumptions on their head and turn them into inciting questions? By the way, if you want to know if your questions are just interesting vs. inciting look for the response from other people. If they look shocked or like you just committed heresy then you are asking the questions that are going to get you to those provocative answers. So, go ask some inciting questions that make people go… what?!!

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

Organizations Have Personality Types: How Do You Fit?

Belinda Gore EnneagramThis guest blog was written as a companion to the VoiceAmerica Interview with Belinda Gore on April 24, Building Leadership Self-Awareness Using Personality Type. In the interview and the blog, Belinda explores how she uses the Enneagram to help leaders build the self-awareness that enables them to perform effectively. It is also the companion to a foundational blog post Leveraging Leadership Type to Improve Leadership Effectiveness

As a reminder from a prior post, when the 65-member Advisory Council for the Stanford Graduate School of Business was polled several years ago on the topic of what is most important to include in the school’s curriculum, there was overwhelming agreement that the most important thing business school graduates needed to learn was self-awareness and the resulting ability to reduce denial in their perceptions of themselves and their actions. Pretty impressive. This speaks to the emerging recognition that we highlight in Innovative Leadership: leaders, through their own personality quirks and biases, can derail the most progressive initiatives toward an organization’s sustainable success.

In my experience using the Enneagram system as a psychologist and a leadership coach over the past twenty-three years, I find the enneagram to be more robust than any other system I have encountered. Many organizations are familiar with DISC, MBTI, Social Styles, and other systems, and training in these models has given employees at every level of the organization a foundation in models for self-awareness. I have found leaders at every level able to readily learn the rich and versatile information the Enneagram offers.

Just as leaders have “personalities,” so do organizations. This is just another way to think about the organizational culture, the mission or role the organization seeks to fulfill, the favored strategies for accomplishing goals, the behaviors that are rewarded and those that are not, and the subtle hiring filters that tend to screen out people who do not fit. The senior leaders of the organization may or may not reflect the culture. It is immensely valuable for leaders to determine their organization’s personality type to be able to harness the natural strengths of that pattern and avoid the imbedded tendencies that create problems. Leaders are likely to have a strong influence on the development of organizational culture, but without clear awareness they may not realize how the leader and the group are aligned and how they sometimes work in opposition.

As an example, a mid-size utility company instituted leadership development training based on the Enneagram. In assessing several hundred people within the company, it became clear that the organization has a Type Six culture, one of loyalty. The Type Six pattern is reflected in the company’s mission to provide reliable and affordable gas and electric energy to their customers and to promote safety for their employees in power plants and in distribution. Loyalty is highly valued within the company and many employees have worked for the company for twenty years or more. Attention is paid to identifying potential problems and working out solutions before they occur; when there is a power outage due to weather conditions, there is an expectation that the entire workforce will be available to provide support until the situation is resolved. In some Enneagram training groups of individual contributors, up to 50% of the employees determined for themselves—using an assessment tool along with classroom training and guided group discussion—to have a Type Six personality. Among mid-level managers, that percentage drops to around 35%, and in the top group of senior leaders less than 10% assess themselves as having a Type Six personality pattern.

This is not unusual. Why? Because leaders in the C-suites, those who have risen to the top leadership levels, are not equally distributed around the Enneagram circle but tend to cluster in another sub-grouping.

As a leader, there is great value for you to understand your type to build your awareness of your predispositions. It is also important to understand the organization’s type to better understand how you fit within the organization. Understanding your type will lead you to the following questions:

  1. Is your style a natural fit with that of the majority?
  2. What gifts do you bring because of your similarities?
  3. What blind spots are present if too many people share the same personality type?
  4. If you have a different type, how do your predispositions fill gaps?
  5. How do you manage your similarities and differences to both fit and fill gaps?

By answering these questions, you will have a clearer sense of how you, as a leader, may best contribute and some of the inherent struggles if you have a different type than the majority that comprises the culture. While being part of the minority allows you to fill gaps, you may also find yourself excluded or struggling to communicate effectively. It is through self-awareness and skillful interactions that you will be able to navigate any organizations predispositions.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author
Belinda Gore, PhD focuses on designing, developing and delivering leadership, assessments, workshops, and coaching. She is a key thought leader in the development of the Innovative Leadership framework. She is a psychologist, executive coach, and experienced seminar leader who is skilled in supporting her clients in high-level learning. With 30 years’ experience in leadership development and interpersonal skills training, she is known for helping teams discover strength in their diversity to achieve their mutual goals, and works with individual leaders to access their natural talents to maximize effectiveness and personal satisfaction. Her clients have included senior leadership in global companies, senior and middle management in both corporate and nonprofit organizations, and entrepreneurs. She will be leading our new service line focused on helping leaders and their organizations build resilience along with offering leadership team development, board development, coaching, and Enneagram assessment.