Guest: Rosabeth Moss Kanter. Professor Kanter holds the Ernest L. Arbuckle Professorship at Harvard Business School, specializing in strategy, innovation, and leadership for change. She is the author or co-author of 20 books, including her latest, Think Outside the Building: How Advanced Leaders Can Change the World, One Smart Innovation at a Time. She is the former chief editor of Harvard Business Review and has been repeatedly named to lists such as the 50 Most Powerful Women in the World and the 50 Most Influential Business Thinkers in the World.
Overview: Business management fads come and go. But truly effective leadership applies tried-and-true principles in innovative ways that solve complex problems, inspire team members, and Make BIG Happen for the whole company.
On today’s show, Prof. Kanter discusses the enduring qualities of great leadership and how to deal with the BIG challenges facing companies today.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter on running a business while empowering your people:
“Leadership is not entirely about inspiration. You have to run a business. And that means watching costs, watching revenues. But you don’t have to be brutal about it. And there are better ways to treat people. It’s not only your colleagues at the moment who are watching, but all the people who might work for the company are watching you, and then anybody laid off is being watched for how they were treated. My leadership lessons through all the years I’ve been active have to do with empowering people, treating them with dignity and respect, listening to their ideas. Early in my career, when I was just a young woman and I was talking about these principles, some big companies were not yet prepared for this because they were still thinking about Jack Welch-style efficiencies. Later, I would hear from some of the same people I had spoken to or consulted with who said, ‘You were really right. That’s what we’re all about now.”
Rosabeth Moss Kanter on why some CEOs resist flexible work schedules:
“It wasn’t that they thought it was going to be much better for the employee to have all these friends and relationships and connections and spontaneous encounters. I think it was really about control. If I can’t see them, how do I know they’re working? Well, one of the problems is ‘knowledge work’ is often thinking. How can you tell whether somebody is taking a nap or thinking? For some fields, I think people will be back in offices, but I think they need flexibility.”
Rosabeth Moss Kanter on how learning improves leadership: “I used to joke that at many big companies, when you rise to the top, you never again have to talk to anybody who disagrees with you. And you never have to learn anything ever again. You’re expected to have all the answers, so you give the answers. In many companies, education programs stop at a certain level and the top people don’t really have educational experiences anymore, which I think is a shame. You can be very creative about what education and training means. Learning means being able to challenge your own assumptions and think new thoughts. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re sitting in a classroom with formal training or you’re online with one of the package video training programs. Learning is encountering the real world and learning something new from it. Get out and learn from experiences that are different from what you normally have.”
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