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Leadership

How to be a game-changing leader

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In a new webinar for MIT Sloan Alumni Online, senior lecturer Doug Ready shared five ways leaders can build game-changing organizations. Ready, an expert on organizational effectiveness, is the founder and CEO of the International Consortium for Executive Development Research. He was recently inducted into the Thinkers50 hall of fame.

“Game-changing organizations stand out from the pack and their peer group,” Ready said. “They let people raise their hand and have a point of view to share valuable contributions. They’re not afraid to swim across the stream and experiment and try new things. But they’re not just wildly innovative — they know how to get things done.”

These are the five goals that game-changing leaders must embrace.

1. Create clarity. Leaders create companies that are purpose-driven and know why they exist. They’re performance-focused and know what they want to achieve. And, finally, they’re principle-led and know what they believe in.

2. Unleash energy. “It’s not just about one charismatic leader. Leaders need to create a climate of high engagement and a robust level of dialogue, where there’s lots of questioning and lots of expectations,” Ready said. Good leaders provide a sense of inclusion, belonging, and emotional safety, where employees feel empowered to get help and to ask questions while also being held accountable for their work.

3. Build trust. “When leaders authentically solicit feedback, they build trust,” he said. They do this in four ways: By thinking about shared beliefs, articulated values, normative behaviors (what’s accepted in the organization and whether this aligns with its values), and rewards and consequences (whether there are incentives for aligning with those beliefs and values). Ideally, a game-changing culture has both “glue and grease,” he said. “Glue binds us together, and grease enables fresh thinking and resiliency.” Game-changing organizations allow employees to question the norms with grease while being bound like glue by key values and beliefs.

4. Win today. Smart leaders don’t just talk about change — they invest time and resources in it, even when change feels uncomfortable. “We need discipline to innovate and execute; we need to make sure we’re committing to constant customer obsession, shareholder happiness, and employee excitement,” Ready said.

5. Shape tomorrow. Savvy leaders scrutinize their organization to determine why change might not happen. Is it a problem with capability, or finding talent? Or is it a culture challenge, wherein employees don’t feel enabled to speak up? Leaders need to maintain a “robust sense of constant questioning,” he said.

Finally, he said, leaders don’t merely focus on these five things. They marry each skillset with a mindset. They’re able to maintain a sense of duality: urgency with patience; leadership with individual accountability; learning with leading; and stewardship with change.

 

“Leaders are never satisfied with the status quo. They’re always questioning and asking for input,” he said. “If we’re going to build organizations that are purpose-driven, performance-focused, and principle-led, we need to cultivate a new perspective on the skillsets and mindsets of our enterprise leaders.”

Watch the full webinar below. Want to learn more firsthand? Apply for Ready's MIT Sloan Executive Education course Building Game-Changing Organizations: Aligning Purpose, Performance, and People.

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