As a devoted Red Sox fan, I have a lot to celebrate today, and perhaps the nation has a lot to learn. The team’s worst to first transformation in a trying time might give us clues on how to rebuild our economy and democracy into something that again makes us stand tall and proud as one.
Here’s what I take away from this turnaround.
1. Distributed Leadership
The Red Sox owners and general manager reflected on and learned the right lesson from their failed effort to build a team around expensive stars and a flamboyant manager. Shedding and replacing them with talented players and a manager willing to and capable of building a team culture of mutual respect, shared leadership, and accountability paid off. David Ortiz said it well: “We probably don’t have the talent that we had in ’07 and ’04, but we have guys that are capable, stay focused, and do the little things. And when you win with a ball club like that, that’s special.” America’s CEOs might take note: Hire and invest in talented people who are also team players and leaders; pay them fairly and equitably. Don’t squander all your dollars on a few stars (including yourselves).
Business schools prepare students to succeed. Two courses that I teach at MIT’s Sloan School of Management take an unusual approach to this goal. I teach students how to fail—so that they may find brilliant success in the future.
No textbooks are required for these classes – “Improvisational Leadership: In the Moment Leadership Skills,” which I have taught for the past three years as an elective course, and “Improvisation, Adaptability and Influence: An Experiential Leadership Lab,” which I have taught for the past seven years as a two-day SIP workshop. Students don’t have to spend hours at the library or sit through long lectures. But they do have to do something that for most of them is far more challenging. They have to confront their fear of failure.
When we fear making a mistake or looking foolish, we are reluctant to take risks or to try new things. We are less spontaneous and authentic. Our ability to listen with care and awareness diminishes when we are worried about “getting it right.” Since failure is inevitable in all human endeavors, it is important for future business leaders to learn to face the fear of failure and then to discover how to turn failure into success.
Improvisation is the art of the unexpected. It teaches us how to take risks and to respond confidently in the moment to whatever happens. The improviser develops a mindset that includes curiosity, high stakes listening, flexibility, and the desire to build strong relationships. Resilience is key.
Business and ethics needn’t be mutually exclusive, says Leigh Hafrey, senior lecturer in Communication and Ethics at the MIT Sloan School of Management. The longtime expert in professional ethics sat down with genConnect at the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, CO to talk about why “value-based leadership” is so important, particularly in the 21st century.
What does it take to be an effective leader in today’s unpredictable and uncertain business environments?
Earlier this month, I attended an MIT Sloan executive education course called “Transforming Your Leadership Strategy,” taught by MIT Sloan professor Deborah Ancona. While a good deal of the learning in the course took place through interactive exercises, Ancona conveyed many important points about effective leadership through her presentations. Here are a few of those points: Read More »