Most of the standard advice about how you grow into something new and learn new roles is that you start from the inside. Writers advise you to seek information about who you are and what you are good at. Then you should decide what you want to become. Ibarra goes back to Aristotle to recommend coming from a very different place.
“Aristotle observed that people become virtuous by acting virtuous: if you do good, you’ll be good. His insight has been confirmed in a wealth of social psychology research showing that people change their minds by first changing their behavior. Simply put, change happens from the outside in, not from the inside out.”
Instead of insight she labels what you’ll find starting from the outside as “outsight.” It’s what makes Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader, distinctive and effective. There are three sources of “outsight.” There are new ways of doing your work. And there are new ways of connecting to and engaging people.
As I read it, I found that the process she outlines gave me different perspectives on a number of issues. It was powerful. The book is divided into five chapters, each with a specific topic and advice.
Chapter 1 lays the groundwork for the rest of the book and describes what Ibarra calls her “outsight” principle. She says that if you want to step into leadership, you have to learn to act like a leader. Because who you are today is a product of your past experiences and successes, it is hard for you to think your way into acting in the new ways you need to act. So, act first and learn from what happens.
Chapter 2 is titled “Redefine Your Job.” Ibarra talks about the competency traps that we fall into when we do more and more of the things that we are good at, get praised for, and are comfortable doing.
Chapter 3 is about networking. This isn’t the “networking” from self-help books. It’s networks as social organizations. You need to expand your network outside your current job and team, and perhaps company. You need to bring in other people who can help you make the transitions you want to make because they’ve already been to the places you want to go.
The problem with trying new things, with learning by doing and creating a new kind of you is that it often feels false. So in Chapter 4, Ibarra suggests you should be more playful with yourself. What she does in this chapter is give you ways to try on new behaviors without threatening your authentic self and to develop an authentic self that fits your new situation as well as your nature.
Chapter 5 is about managing the stepping-up process. The big insight here is that stepping up to play a bigger leadership role isn’t something that you do once and then are done with. It’s a process. It takes a while. And if you understand it that way, you can keep working at it and keep developing.
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After reading the book
How to become a greater leader?
Supporting this fundamental principle, the book offers the reader many different ways in which you can take practical steps to behave like a leader using specific techniques so that you can begin to learn how to be a leader, such as:
- Redefine some aspects of your job by using methods that can help you break out of your routine, so you can really start thinking (and acting) like a leader.
- Networking techniques to expand your network beyond what you would normally consider; for example, with people outside your team or even your organization.
- Experiment with different leadership styles and allow your identity to change, even if it doesn’t feel authentic at first.
- Avoid the competition trap, learn to walk away from what you’re doing. being good at it today, being good at something else tomorrow (being a leader).
- Understand what leaders really do, how to bring about change, how to bridge teams, and how to nurture and inspire within your organization.
- Develop a better understanding of the company as a whole and adapt it to the way you tell your own stories to communicate the “why”.
Ibarra goes into detail about each of these techniques, referencing examples from his own extensive research. Leadership and career transition experience did an excellent job not only providing examples and techniques but also providing compelling evidence for each of them.
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What makes a leader?
There is a part of the book that in particular changed my perception of what makes a good leader for me, as it described that good leaders “spend a lot of time outside of the team, not inside. They gave credit and made sure they had the right information and resources. reached out to the team, shared achievements and made sure superiors were on board when controversies arose. To be honest, before reading this book, I always knew that a good leader needs to have some focus outside of the team, but I thought a good leader would still focus on their own team, the performance, most of the time track and give him credit. education, etc. Ibarra contrasts these two ways of seeing leadership effectively through the analogy of the central and bridging roles. In the bridging role, they are much more effective leaders. After reading this book, I would tend to agree. things in mind for the future. Do you see yourself as the center or as a bridge?
Table 2-1: Ibarra, Herminia. Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader (pp. 37-38). Harvard Business Review Press. Kindle Edition.
This book has many meanings, it helps build a variety of leadership skills. But unfortunately, some other aspects of the book lacked direction or were perhaps too idealistic in theory.
For example, the section in which Ibarra explains the need to redefine her job didn’t do much to empower herself to actually do so. It’s one thing to suggest that we need to break away from “everyday life,” but depending on your role, that can sometimes be an almost impossible challenge. Ibarra could have served the reader better in this area by providing some guidance on effective delegation and/or best practices to persuade managers to deselect work for higher leadership goals as part of succession planning. Ibarra spoke little about it and offered very little guidance on how to put this into practice. in a leadership role in an organization could backfire and do more harm than good.
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There’s a lot of good material in this book, and it’s also very well done. There are lots of good references to studies and research, so if you want to know “why” or “what science says” this is an excellent book for you. Ibarra uses helpful sidebars and chapter summaries to make key points. I particularly like the way that she has learned from teaching MBA students. That gives her a range of examples that will be familiar to most readers.
If you are in the midst of growing into a new leadership role, or if you are thinking about expanding your leadership influence, Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader by Herminia Ibarra is a great book for you.
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