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Rotman Insights Hub | University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Act Like A Leader, Think Like A Leader

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Herminia Ibarra

Transcript of the video:

There’s a pretty big consensus that as we start to move into more senior roles or as the expectations for us start to change and ask us to contribute beyond our narrow expertise to an organizational endeavor or to a group goal, what becomes more important is less the specialty expertise and more strategic capacity and soft skills, okay. 

Strategic capacity meaning being able to understand what are the trends, what’s going on, what are other people doing, what other opportunities out there, what are some of the dangers lurking and in order to understand those things you need to have a network that helps you learn those things and that gives you feelers out into the outside world and then you also need the soft skills because you can have the best strategic ideas in the world, but if nobody buys into them they’ll be motivated by them, they’ll be inspired by them, nothing really happens.  So over and over again these two things are what really make the difference.

This came out of a study that was done by one of our colleagues, Boris Groysberg with the headhunting firm Heidrick & Struggles. It was called The New Path to the C-Suite and what they were seeing is for the senior roles, those are the two key things that matter a lot and that was very much true for the people that I studied even though they were a little bit more junior than the C-Suite level.

The three things that they really needed to do to move up to more senior roles or again, to have bigger impact, is one of the things I’ve seen is that over the years, I don’t know if this is happening to you, but our jobs are just getting bigger without necessarily a title change that goes with it, kind of more responsibilities, people get fired or leave and they’re not replaced and so you get more pieces or more geographies. I see a lot of heads nodding. 

So I call it the do-it-yourself transition and it’s really tricky because you don’t have those first 90 days or that new title, the signal that something has to change, it’s just kind of creeping up on you and all of a sudden you have a completely different job that requires you to step up even if it has nothing to do with a big promotion.

And so, as we face these situations, either positioning ourselves to move up or simply wanting to lead in a different way in that kind of context where your job has expanded, the three things that I’m going to focus on this morning are how do you redefine your job? How do you network more broadly, across and out, and then how do you start to be a little bit more playful with your sense of self so that you can allow yourself to eat other people’s food or whatever it is that doesn’t come naturally in order to help yourself kind of break out of that, you know, too much yourself in the ineffective kind of way.

[3.13 minutes]

This video was filmed as part of the Leadership Experts Speaker Series on March 1, 2015.

Herminia Ibarra is the Charles Handy professor of organizational behaviour at London Business School. Prior to joining LBS, she served on the INSEAD and Harvard Business School faculties. An authority on leadership and career development, Thinkers 50 ranks Ibarra among the top management thinkers in the world. She is the author of best-selling books Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader and Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career.