My Journey to Harvard

My Journey to Harvard

leadership-development-3 My Journey to HarvardWhile I have been using and teaching the principles of Adaptive Leadership for several years now, in the last few years I have felt drawn towards ‘the source’. The ‘source’ of course is Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Boston, USA.

More specifically, Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky are the pioneers of Adaptive Leadership and both are key members of the faculty on the 8-day intensive executive development program called The Art and Practice of Leadership Development.

So it was with great excitement that I headed off to Boston on the 13th May. There I joined 63 other people from 22 countries – a diverse group in terms of culture, language and position. Some were consultants like myself, while others worked in senior positions in organisations, government and not-for-profits. Many faced significant challenges in their respective organisations or in addressing issues of national importance in their own respective countries. All were there to improve their own leadership capacity or skills in developing leaders – or both.

For those not familiar with Adaptive Leadership, in simple terms it means mobilising people to make progress on their toughest challenges and thrive. ‘Adaptive’ is different to ‘technical’ in that technical challenges usually have a known solution – they are tried and tested.

Conversely, adaptive challenges are those that require a shift in people’s loyalties, priorities, values or beliefs. The solution is usually not known and in some cases, the problem is not even solvable. The important measure of success however is making progress, not necessarily resolution. Culture change is perhaps one area where the destination is never really attained, however progress towards the goal is critical.

So what did I learn?

After eight 12-hour consecutive and intensive days, I came away with following:

  1. Leadership is indeed more of an art than a science.
  2. An enormous amount of time, money and energy is wasted in organisations by focusing on the wrong things and doing it in the wrong way (80% of change efforts are wasted efforts).
  3. Leadership is an action, not a role. Anyone, anywhere in organisations can – and should – lead.
  4. A deeper understanding of several ‘process skills’ to enhance our delivery capability and outcomes for clients.

So, what can you do?

Here’s what you may want to consider doing or thinking about further:

  1. Have a conversation in your organisation about your leadership capability and capacity – is it servicing your organisation’s vision and strategy? Will it do so in the future? If not, why not?
  2. If you would like us to brief your senior leaders on Adaptive Leadership or run a short, complementary session for your top team, then please contact us.
  3. If you would like a free consultation about improving organisational, team or individual performance, then please contact us.
  4. Send a key leader/HR representative to the program to transform your approach to leadership development. Click here to go to The Art and Practice of Leadership Development website (I can highly recommend the program).
  5. Many of the ideas and principles are contained in my new book, Leadership Without Silver Bullets: A Guide to Exercising Leadership. Click here to read more and order a copy.

Phillip Ralph

The Leadership Sphere


3D_cover-300x300 My Journey to Harvard