As we head into a new year, leaders at all levels in the organization can benefit from reflecting on areas for improvement in the months to come. From handling leadership transitions to taking the time to learn new skills, the following five articles from MIT SMR’s library offer numerous insights from leadership experts across the globe.
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How to Manage ‘Invisible Transitions’ in Leadership
Ingo Marquart, Nora Grasselli, and Gianluca Carnabuci
For many, the new year may mean a change in responsibilities, but taking on a substantial new role without a change in title or authority can be difficult. Survey results show that leaders experience such transitions as 27% more difficult to navigate than formal ones. In this article, the authors describe ways to help leaders manage this type of transition, with communication playing a key role: “Especially when a new job title and a formal promotion are missing, good communication — including soft skills, such as being a good listener and exercising diplomacy — can mean the difference between developing an effective team that trusts your leadership and an ineffective one that doesn’t.”
Kathleen M. O’Connor and Randall S. Peterson
How can you be your authentic self while simultaneously fitting in at a company with a strong culture? To find this careful balance between fitting in and standing out, we need to consider not only ourselves but those around us when seeking “the perfect fit.” In this article, the authors offer strategies for confronting the challenges of fit while maintaining your identity.
The beginning of a new year is a natural time to reflect on what aspects of your job and workplace serve as sources of energy and positivity. As the authors put it, “Glance in your rearview mirror. When have you been at your happiest and delivering your best performance at work? What was it about you that helped you achieve those outcomes? Perhaps it was your positive energy, your coolness under pressure, or your understated wit. Knowing your strengths and authentically expressing them will help you feel more at ease at work and hopefully stand out for the right reasons. This is your best self.”
Pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth has spent years studying grit — the special blend of passion and persistence that allows people to succeed at long-term goals. Duckworth wanted to develop a way to measure grit scientifically, so she undertook the work of creating targeted self-questionnaires. Self-reported surveys offer many advantages: They make data collection efficient and offer transparency around people’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Duckworth points to another benefit that many people don’t consider: The act of answering the questions can promote greater self-awareness, which opens the door to self-development.
As she notes in this article, “Questionnaires used in this way might contribute to shared language, common understanding, and, ultimately, a culture of character.”
We need to learn at work, but it’s costly and time-consuming, and we worry that we might be found lacking. What if we can’t pick up the skills we need? Further, most organizations are not as hospitable to learning as their rhetoric suggests. Part of the problem is that we seldom acknowledge that learning doesn’t just happen at work — it is work. Employers can better support learning, and individuals can do it more effectively, by understanding that there are two types of learning: deliberate practice and reflective engagement.
As author Gianpiero Petriglieri writes, “Learning is plural. There is more than one kind, and each kind needs its own space and challenges us in different ways.”
As organizations face disruptive threats, their cultural values can hinder progress and transformation. At this reflective time of year, it’s useful for leaders to think through ways in which they might help change their company’s iconic practices, which are a variety of familiar processes that author Herminia Ibarra describes as “emblematic of historical cultural values but whose continued existence sends mixed messages about the organization’s desire to change.”
In this article, Ibarra cites examples from companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, and U.K. law firm Allen & Overy that demonstrate how leadership successfully eliminated or radically transformed practices that reinforced old mindsets and behaviors, helping to set the companies on future-oriented paths.