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If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Leadership Interview by Adam Bryant with Jacqueline Novogratz, Chief Executive of the Acumen Fund

Interview of September, 2012

Adam Bryant talks with top executives every Sunday and below I’d like to share one question and answer about Jacqueline’s beliefs and practices on leadership – beliefs and practices we can all take to heart and to work.

Q. Tell me about your approach to leadership.
A. I think we so often equate leadership with being experts — the leader is supposed to come in and fix things. But in this interconnected world we live in now, it’s almost impossible for just one person to do that.
So if we could only have more leaders who would start by just listening, just trying to understand what’s going wrong from the perspective of the people you’re supposed to serve — whether it’s your customers or people for whom you want the world to change.
Leaders can get stuck in groupthink because they’re really not listening, or they’re listening only to what they want to listen to, or they actually think they’re so right that they’re not interested in listening. And that leads to a lot of suboptimal solutions in the world.
The kind of leaders we need — and certainly that I aspire to be — reject ideology, reject trite assumptions, reject the status quo, and are really open to listening to solutions from people who are most impacted by the problems.
I’ll often say at Acumen that you’ve got to learn to listen with your whole body. Lean in and pay attention not only to what someone is saying, but also to their body language and their level of comfort or discomfort. You have to learn to ask questions in a way that will elicit more nuanced answers, rather than the answers you would like to get.
My questions to you
How much of an expert does your ego wish to display?
How often do you fool yourself into thinking that you are really listening?
How well do you know your assumptions and how they influence your thinking, acting, and the leadership you demonstrate?
Adam’s book with collected lessons from his interviews is called The Corner Office, also available as e-book.

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