Monday, 9 February 2015

Book Review ‘Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader – Reviewer Professor M.S. Rao

Acclaim about the Book
“Herminia Ibarra has created a valuable and successful model for helping forward-thinking professionals move up the corporate ladder.” — Marshall Goldsmith, author of New York Times and global best seller What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

What are the Details of the Book?

If you want to acquire practical knowledge about leadership, read this book.  If you want to devise a plan of action to become a better leader, read this book. If you want to grow your network to fast-track your career by acquiring latest leadership tools and techniques, read this book. Herminia Ibarra’s authored book Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader is divided into five chapters and concludes with a message to act.  

What is Inside?
Herminia Ibarra gives very practical advice on how managers and executives at all levels can step up to leadership by making small but crucial changes in three areas as follows: redefine the scope of your day job by plunging into new projects and activities; form relationships and interact with people who see the world differently; and experiment with unfamiliar and playful ways of connecting and engaging with others to get things done.  She shows that contrary to popular opinion, experimentation, not self-reflection is the secret to leadership development. Too much introspection shields us from discovering our leadership potential and pigeonholes us as our past selves instead of pointing the way to the self we can become. This type of inside out thinking can impede change and hold back careers.

Herminia Ibarra outlines to invest in activities that will grow your network as follows: use projects and assignments strategically; invest in extracurricular activities; create your own communities of interest; use lunches and business trips to connect to people you don’t see often; favor active rather than passive networking opportunities (for example, don’t just how up for events-organize, or speak at them); and use social media to broadcast your interests and cast a wider net to people who share them.

Operational, Personal and Strategic Network

Three different networks-operational, personal, and strategic-can play a vital role in helping you step up to lead. The first helps you manage current internal responsibilities, the second boosts personal development, and the third focuses on new business directions and the stakeholders you must get on board to pursue these directions. While people differ a lot in how well they build and use operational and personal networks, author discovered that nearly everyone underutilizes strategic networking. Most of the people the author comes across have good operational networks. These networks include the people on whom you depend in order to get your work done. The people include your direct reports, your superiors, people in other units, and key outsiders such as suppliers, distributors, and customers.  Personal networks include relationships with the people that you feel closest to-friends, family, and trusted advisers-and the people you meet through things like professional associations, alumni groups, clubs, hobbies, charities, and other personal-interest communities. The third kind of network-your strategic network-is made up of relationships that help you to envision the future, sell your ideas, and get the information and resources you need to exploit these ideas. It requires both time and attention outside operational demands and strategic investment in outside activities that can give you outsight on what else you might be doing.

A strategic network has to include people and groups that can help you compete in the future. Part of the trick is that it is not always so obvious who should be a part of this network. A good strategic network gives you connective advantage: the ability to marshal information, support, or other resources from one of your networks to obtain results in another. It’s not so much about the one-on-one relationships you have, but it is more about how they intersect.

Leadership Takeaways
  • To step up to leadership, you have to learn to think like a leader.
  • The way you think is a product of your past experience.
  • The only way to change how you think, therefore, is to do different things.
  • Doing things-rather than simply thinking about them-will increase your outsight on what leadership is all about.
  • Outsight comes from a “tripod” of sources: new ways of doing your work (your job), new relationships (your network), and new ways of connecting to and engaging people (yourself).
  • Sustainable change in your leadership capacity requires shifts on all three legs of the tripod.
  • Success creates competency traps. We fall into a competency trap when these three things occur: you enjoy what you do well, so you do more of it and get yet better at it; when you allocate more time to what you do best, you devote less time to learning other things that are also important; and over time, it gets more costly to invest in learning to do new things.
  • To act like a leader, you must devote time to four tasks you won’t learn to do if you are in a competency trap: bridging across diverse people and groups, envisioning new possibilities; engaging people in the change process; and embodying the change.
  • It’s hard to learn these things directly and especially without the benefit of a new assignment. So, no matter what your current situation is, there are five things you can do to begin to make your job a platform for expanding your leadership: develop your situation sensors; get involved in projects outside your area; participate in extracurricular activities; communicate your personal “why” and create slack in your schedule.
  • As you embark on the transition to leadership, networking outside your organization, team, and close connections becomes a vital lifeline to who and what you might become.
  • The only way to realize that networking is one of the most important requirements of a leadership role is to act.
  • If you leave things to chance and natural chemistry, then your network will be narcissistic and lazy.
  • You need operational, personal, and strategic networks to get things done, to develop personally and professionally, and to step up to leadership. Although most good managers have good operational networks, their personal networks are disconnected from their leadership work, and their strategic networks are nonexistent or underutilized.
  • Network advantage is a function of your BCDs: the breadth of your contacts, the connectivity of your networks, and your network’s dynamism.
  • Enhance or rebuild your strategic network from the periphery of your current network outward as a first step toward increasing your outsight on your self: seek outside expertise and elicit input and perspectives of peers from different functional or support groups.
  • Many of the typical challenges of stepping up to leadership make people feel like fakes: taking charge in a new role, selling their ideas, managing their higher-ups, working in an alien culture, and learning from negative feedback.
  • Chameleons are comfortable shifting shapes and styles to fit each new situation; true-to-selfers, on the other hand, tend to feel inauthentic when asked to stretch outside their comfort zone.
  • Authenticity traps really get you into trouble when you are stepping up to leadership, because what feels like the authentic you is the old self that you are trying to shed.
  • One way to escape the authenticity trap is to think about experimenting with new behaviors as playing around with your sense of who you are instead of working on it. The new behaviors might feel unnatural in the beginning, but they help you figure out who you might want to be, without your actually committing to become it-playing gives you outsight on yourself.
  • Identity-who you are-is not just about the past; it’s also the possibilities you envision for yourself in the future.
  • Here are the three ways you can play around with your sense of who you are: - steal like an artist; observe a broad range of role models to create your own collage of things you want to learn from these models, and keep refining your style until it is effective and authentic; aim to learn: set learning goals, not just performance goals; and don’t stick to your story; try different versions, narrate different defining moments, and keep editing, much as you would your curriculum vitae.
  • Stepping to play a bigger leadership role is not an event; it’s a process that takes time before it pays off. It is a transition built from small changes.
  • Most methods for changing ask you to begin with the end in mind-the desired outcome. But in reality, knowing what kind of leader you want to become comes last, not first, in the stepping-up process.
  • The transition process is rarely linear; difficulties and complications will inevitably arise and often follow a predictable sequence of five stages: disconfirmation; simple addition; complication; course correction; and internalization.
  • Making major, external moves like changing jobs and careers, however, does not necessarily take you to a better place. More important is to grow by questioning where you are today. Actively entertaining alternatives, and eventually committing to making changes. The changes can be external, like job moves, or more internal, like changing the way you think about what you do and why.
  • Breaking free from your “ought self” – what important people in your life think and ought to be-is at the heart of the transition process.

What is the Recommendation?

Herminia Ibarra is an exceptional leadership scholar and intellectual. She authored this book based on her 25 years of teaching experience that includes executive education. She also covered this book from psychology perspective. This book reveals her keen interest in psychology as she referred lots of research works by renowned psychologists in the world.  She shares several inspiring stories including Margaret Thatcher and Sheryl Sandberg. This book reflects honest account of her perspective on leadership.  It outlines summary at the end of each chapter and offers self-assessment exercises, case studies, quotes and diagrams.

This is one of the finest books I have read in my lifetime. I took lots of notes and created new triggers for my research on leadership and organizational behavior. It is an inspiring and thought provoking book to grow as a great leader.  It is a well researched with both scholarly and practitioner application. It is an insightful and inspiring book worth investing your time. It is useful for educators, scholars, learners, leaders and CEOs. A must read for professionals to grow as great leaders.  You can gift this book to others. Enjoy reading this book!

“This intelligent and thought-provoking book is for those who really want to make a difference—those willing to act their way into leadership situations they might previously have thought themselves out of.” — Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever

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Professor M.S.Rao, India
Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants India
Listed in Marquis Who's Who in the World in 2013
21 Success Sutras for Leaders: Top 10 Leadership Books of the Year (San Diego University) Amazon URL:

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