Acumen founder Jacqueline Novogratz issued a powerful challenge to the roomful of CEOs at Fortune’s CEO Initiative conference on Tuesday: Business had the technology revolution; now it needs a “moral revolution.”
Describing her journey of leaving a successful career on Wall Street three decades ago to start a microfinance institution in Rwanda—which turned into more than $100 million in investment across 108 companies around the globe that has used entrepreneurism to bring services to more than 270 million people in the developing world—Novogratz shared lessons and advice for CEOs seeking to help solve the world’s most pressing issues.
Among Novogratz’s lessons: Empathy alone isn’t enough, she said, because empathy allows power dynamics to remain intact. “We don’t really have to change if we feel another person’s pain,” she said. Instead, solving the world’s problems calls for business leaders to channel their “moral imagination.”
Partnering, she said, is critical for scale. She cited Acumen’s eight-year partnership with global consulting firm Bain, which includes senior partners coming into Acumen’s offices and a total of 52,000 hours of pro bono consulting, but also “reverse apprenticeships.” These involve Bain embedding its young leaders in externships at Acumen initiatives in the field—in Ethiopia, say, or post-conflict Colombia—after which they come back with a different level of understanding of things like the supply chains in which their large-corporate clients are working in. “It makes them better leaders,” she says. Continue reading →
There were many late nights during Thomas’s time at a private equity firm, but two of them really stand out. On the first, he was at a bar. Earlier in the day, his boss had let him know that he was the top performer in his cohort. Over drinks that evening, he struck up a conversation with a partner at a rival firm. “You’re the guy who closed two deals in six months, aren’t you?” the man asked. It was a moment Thomas had dreamed of and worked for since leaving his small town for college, the first in his family, years before.
On the second, he was at his desk, working on a high-profile IPO. He was the only associate on the deal—the kind of assignment reserved for top talent on the firm’s fast track to partnership. Dawn was breaking, and he had no memory of the past six hours, even though his e-mail and phone logs chronicled a busy all-nighter. A neurologist later ran some tests and warned him of the dangers of sleep deprivation. “I would go to bed at five, wake up at seven with palpitations, and go to work,” Thomas recalled. “I never stopped to think that it was wrong. It’s how it works, I told myself. Everyone does it.”
Thomas slowed down briefly after the doctor’s warning but soon came back full throttle. His talent and drive were intact, though somehow he’d lost his sense of purpose. He created an opportunity for the firm to do a $1.3 billion deal, and then surprised his bosses by suddenly quitting. His performance was strong and his prospects bright as ever, but as he put it when we spoke, he had fallen victim to a vicious cycle: “I did not want to step off the fast track, so I could not slow down.” Thomas felt trapped by his firm’s expectations, but his desire to prove deserving of his bosses’ endorsement kept him from challenging the culture or asking for support. He felt both overwhelmed and underutilized, and concluded that this firm was not the right place to realize his leadership ambitions. Continue reading →
“My team has a time management problem,” leaders often tell me. For example, an executive might say that their teams aren’t moving the needle on important projects, yet staffers seem busy and stressed. “Time management” becomes a catchall solution to this problem, and they want to hire me to offer tips and techniques on things like prioritizing and using their calendars better.
What we soon uncover, however, is that the root of their team’s problems is not managing time, but managing attention. And these attention management issues are due not to a skills gap on the part of the employees, but to a wider cultural problem unintentionally reinforced, or at least tolerated, by senior leadership.
Distraction is one of the biggest hurdles to high-quality knowledge work, costing almost 1 trillion dollars annually. The first step to addressing this problem is to treat it as a company culture problem that deserves the attention of senior executives.
In my experience, many leaders inadvertently allow or even actively promote the following four situations that impede their team’s ability to focus and produce their best work. Continue reading →
In the face of disruptive technologies, globalization, and a volatile marketplace, leading companies are committing to a new kind of transformation.
Instead of pursuing it as a onetime, crisis-driven initiative and instead of focusing primarily on cutting costs, they are committing to “always on” transformation — profoundly changing their strategy, business model, operating model, people, and organization on an ongoing basis in order to stay ahead.
The new approach demands a new kind of leadership — leadership that is not just directive but also inclusive and that has an appetite for risk, says a new e-book published by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Transformation: Delivering and Sustaining Breakthrough Performance draws on the firm’s work in more than 400 transformations that generated a median annual impact exceeding $340 million through cost cuts, revenue increases, the application of capital efficiency levers, and improvements in organizational performance. Continue reading →
A recent Deloitte study found that 56% of executives believe their companies are not ready to meet today’s leadership needs. Many companies are responding, last year spending $31 billion on leadership development programs, and since 2015 alone spending on such programs has increased by 10%.
Jesse Demmel, vice president of platform engineering at Under Armour, rewrites an old adage: “Some leaders are born. Many are made.”
But not all attempts to “make” leaders are created equal. Matt Norquist, CEO of Linkage, a global leadership development consultancy firm, says, “I think that, despite all the effort, a lot of the companies I see aren’t making sustainable progress.”
So, what are some key elements that make a leadership development strategy successful?
One mistake organizations make when it comes to leadership development is sporadic or inconsistent development opportunities. For example, leaders take hour-long online seminars or employees only meet with managers at annual reviews. Continue reading →