Leadership: It Either Scales and Grows, or Destroys

Scaling Leadership provides a proven framework for magnifying agile and scalable leadership in your organization by multiplying high-achieving leaders at scale.

Lead Change recently spoke with the authors, Bill Adams and Bob Anderson, to dig deeper into their latest book.

What compelled you to write Scaling Leadership?

We have about 1.5 million 360 rater surveys in our global database. We decided to research that data in a unique way. We studied the written comments (senior leaders providing written feedback to other senior leaders about what makes them effective and/or ineffective) to learn how leaders describe leadership—what works and what does not. The results astounded us. We had to write it up. It was too good!

What makes the time right for this book? In other words, where must an organization or leader be in order to be receptive to the concepts and ideas in Scaling Leadership?

We are doing business in a world that is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, uncertain, and ambiguous (VUCA). As a result, leaders in organizations of all kinds and sizes must be able to do more, know more, decide more, contribute more, and be more. One leader by him or herself is insufficient. What’s required is leadership distributed throughout the organization—not just concentrated in a small handful of people. It takes a team-of-teams approach—effective leaders evolving collectively effective leadership teams, which in turn evolve other teams of leaders. Scaling leadership is the only solution that enables organizations to survive and thrive in a VUCA world.

The leading adaptations to VUCA are systemic and cultural transformations to make the organization more agile, adaptive, resilient, innovative, engaging, etc. These change efforts fail if conscious, creative and effective leadership is not scaled throughout the leadership system of the organization.

Scaling Leadership provides leaders with a proven system for growing leadership throughout every level of their organizations. For businesses to grow and thrive in the future, they must scale their leadership. This book provides a powerful, proven framework that any leader can immediately put to work in his or her organization.

Why is scale so important?

Life itself provides a powerful model for the nature of organizations:

It either scales and grows, or it dies.

In much the same way, businesses either grow and thrive, or they die and fade away—doomed to irrelevance as competitors pass them by. The heart and soul of leadership are ultimately about scaling the capacity and capability of an organization to create outcomes that fulfill the vision of its desired future. Leadership scales the capacity and capability of individual employees and teams, and it scales the capability of the organization to constantly reinvent itself in today’s fast-changing business environment.

What is the one thing you want readers to take away after reading Scaling Leadership?

Our great hope is that everyone who reads this book will realize that they possess the seeds within them to become truly great leaders. Not only that, but they have the ability—and, we believe, the duty—to reveal and nurture great leadership in others.

Our organizations depend on us to rise to the challenge, and our people depend on us to support them as they rise to the challenge—revealing the greatness inherent in each person and in our coming together to create what matters most.

What is the one thing each of you took away from writing the book? Something you learned in the process, or something that surprised you? 

Our first book, Mastering Leadership, presented the first Universal Model of Leadership to emerge in the field—an integrated framework for breakthrough performance and extraordinary business results. What surprised us in writing this book is that senior leaders, in their own words, map out this very same model. There is a universality to leadership and leaders know it and can describe it.

Is there anything that didn’t make it into this book that you’d like to share with the LCG audience?

In this book, we describe the pathway of development both, individually and organizationally from what we call Reactive leadership to Creative leadership. This shift is highly correlated to leadership effectiveness and business results, but only 20 percent of leaders fully make this shift. Hence, the primary focus of this book is on the developmental work of this shift. Because of that, we do not spend near enough focus on the next level of leadership, Integral leadership. Only about 5 percent of leaders are Integral leaders, and yet, this level of leadership is ready-made for the complexity we face as leaders. Creative leaders need to make the shift to Integral leadership.

In this shift, the Creative authentic, visionary, and strategic leader becomes the servant leader and system architect. Integral leaders design systems to optimize the interdependent welfare of the organization and the entire/global ecosystem in which the organization is symbiotically embedded. In doing so, they elevate value for all system stakeholders including the natural environment. This profound level of leadership will be the focus of our next wave of research and our next book.

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