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Leadership Transformed: How Ordinary Managers Become Extraordinary Leaders (Book Review)

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“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” —Warren Bennis

The leadership journey is a very special one.   On one hand, it’s a very personal journey.  At the same time, it’s an intersection of three journeys:  the leadership journey, the team journey, and the organizational journey.

On this journey of leadership transformation there are many traps and pitfalls along the way where, if mishandled, we can spiral down.   But, if we respond to the challenges in effective ways, we can create trajectory.  We can transform our leadership capabilities and rise to new levels.

But how do you equip yourself for this journey of leadership transformation?

Welcome Leadership Transformed: How Ordinary Managers Become Extraordinary Leaders, by Dr. Peter Fuda.

In Leadership Transformed, Fuda shares the seven common themes that have enabled hundreds of CEOs around the world to transform themselves into highly effective leaders, and transform the performance of their organizations as well.   Fuda uses metaphors to describe the seven leadership themes—and to describe the CEOs’ mastery of what they had learned.  The seven metaphors are:  FIRE, SNOWBALL, MASTER CHEF, COACH, MASK, MOVIE, RUSSIAN DOLLS

Fuda himself is a researcher, consultant, and speaker on leadership and business transformation, and adjunct professor at the Macquarie Graduate School of Management.  He is also founder and principal of The Alignment Partnership where he has spoken to many thousands of leaders around the world and coaches hundreds of CEOs to increase their leadership effectiveness.

With that in mind, let’s dive into Leadership Transformed

Contents at a Glance

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 – FIRE
  • Chapter 2 – SNOWBALL
  • Chapter 3 – MASTER CHEF
  • Chapter 4 – COACH
  • Chapter 5 – MASK
  • Chapter 6 – MOVIE
  • Chapter 7 – RUSSIAN DOLLS

Problems Addressed

Here is a sampling of some of the challenges that Leadership Transformed helps you with:

  • How to go from a good manager to a great leader
  • How to initiate and sustain transformation efforts
  • How to create momentum around shared leadership principles
  • How to deploy leadership frameworks, tools, and strategies
  • How to leverage a “coaching staff” to help leaders achieve their aspirations
  • How to create a more congruent “best self”
  • How to develop effective self-awareness and reflection capabilities
  • How a leader can align their personal journey with the journey of his or her colleagues and organization

Key Features

Here are some of the key features of Leadership Transformed:

  • Easy to read.   The book is very easy to read, either end to end, or you can hop in and out of chapters.
  • Actionable Advice.   The advice is simple, insightful and actionable.
  • Concrete Examples.  Because Fuda is a coach, he has plenty of examples to share and draw from.
  • Mental Models.   Fuda uses simple metaphors to help create mental models for internalizing key leadership transformation success strategies.

Here is a sampling of some of my favorite highlights and nuggets from the book …

3 Common Themes

Fuda notes that among the metaphors he sees 3 common themes show up time and again:

  1. A progression from one state to another over time (Gradual metamorphosis )
  2. The idea of an awakening
  3. The concept of navigating varied terrains in pursuit of a destination

The 7 Metaphors

Fuda identifies 7 metaphors that help us understand leadership transformation and how ordinary managers become extraordinary leaders:

  1. FIRE.  The Fire metaphor describes the motivational forces that initiate and sustain transformation efforts, including a burning platform and a burning ambition, as well as personal and organizational reasons for change.
  2. SNOWBALL.  The metaphor of the Snowball describes a virtuous cycle of accountability that propels the change effort forward.  It starts with the leader, and builds momentum as others are swept up in the journey.
  3. MASTER CHEF.  The Master Chef metaphor is about artfully applying leadership ‘science’ – frameworks, tools, and strategies for change – to help make transformation happen.  Over time, leaders can and should advance from amateur cook to master chef, using their skills with increasing creativity and flair and thus maximizing their impact.
  4. COACH.  The Coach metaphor describes how a coaching staff can collectively help leaders achieve their aspirations.  It is not about leaders becoming coaches; it’s about leaders letting themselves be coached by others – consultants, colleagues, even family members.
  5. MASK.  The metaphor of the Mask has two aspects: the concealment of perceived imperfections, and the adoption of an identity that is misaligned with a leader’s authentic self, values, or aspirations.
  6. MOVIE.  The Movie metaphor involves processes for increasing self-awareness and reflection that allow leaders to first ‘edit’ their performance, and then direct a ‘movie’ that exemplifies their leadership vision.
  7. RUSSIAN DOLLS.  The Russian Dolls metaphor describes a complementary set of journeys that interact with a leader’s personal journey, thereby increasing levels of effectiveness.

The Leadership Art Meets the Leadership Science

Metaphors help blend the art of leadership with the science of leadership by allowing room for creative interpretation and expression.  Fuda writes:

“I firmly believe that these seven metaphors represent a unique method of addressing the fairly common challenge of leadership transformation in a fresh and unconventional way.  I have not laid out a neat and multistep model for change, nor am I prescribing a magic pill that will turn the ordinary leader into a superhero, and I’m unapologetic about that.  Instead, I have offered seven metaphors that can be used creatively and fluidly by leaders in ways that make sense in their particular context.  In essence, I am proposing a new type of change methodology where the leadership art is as important, or perhaps even more important, than the leadership science.”

The Power of Metaphors

Metaphors invite people into the idea, and a single metaphor is worth a 1000 pictures.  Fuda writes:

“First and foremost, metaphors make complex stuff simple.  We use a saying in my organization, given to me by another mentor: ‘If a picture is worth a thousand words, a metaphor is worth a thousand pictures.’  If I were to try to engage leaders in the theoretical basis for my approach to leadership transformation, I would be met with yawns or worse.  On the other hand, I have to be careful not to oversimplify what can be deep and multifaceted lessons.  These are both challenges leaders face every day.  Metaphors fill the space in between these extremes — they invite people into the idea.  It’s much easier to explore the idea once you’re inside it (yes, I just used a metaphor to explain the power of metaphor).”

5 Strategies for Empowering Leadership

Fuda identifies five strategies he’s found fundamental to a leader’s ability to move away from control and toward a more empowering approach to leadership:

  1. Strategy one: from content to context.  Leaders shift their focus from the day-to-day operational and technical detail of their world to creating a context for the success of others.
  2. Strategy two: from talking to walking.  Leaders shift from telling others what is required to showing them.
  3. Strategy three. from competing to collaborating.  This shift involves moving from isolation, politics, and interpersonal conflict toward genuine relationships built on trust and a desire for mutual success.
  4. Strategy four: from guru to guide.  Here, leaders shift from providing answers to coaching others to find answers for themselves.
  5. Strategy five: from critic to cheerleader.  This final strategy involves moving from a focus on what is going wrong to what is going right.

Directing the Movie in Real Time

Reflection-in-action is the key to turning what you know, into what you do, and improving your effectiveness.  Fuda writes:

“As leaders’ reflective practices are honed into a habit by repeated visits to the editing suite, they become more and more proficient at the third element of the Movie metaphor: directing their own Movies — in real time.  The process of film directing involves articulating and then adhering to the overall vision for the movie.  It is all about planning the audience’s experience.  And although directors will often spend a lot of time in the editing suite, analyzing and making sense of the footage, much of their direction occurs on the set, in real time, where they must make key decisions as the action is unfolding, thinking on their feet and making adjustments as they go. … This type of reflective processing is what Donald Schon calls ‘reflection-in-action’ as opposed to ‘reflection-on-action.’”

Drop the Mask:  Your Natural and Authentic Self

Once you drop your mask, you need to figure out how to get comfortable in your own skin, in an authentic way.  Fuda writes:

“What is common to all of the leaders I’ve worked with is that, once they dropped their Masks, they needed to rebuild their leadership identity in order to promote what Edgar Schein terms ‘pychological safety.’  In simple terms, they needed to transition from the Mask they have been wearing toward their more natural and authentic self.”

6 Russian Dolls

Fuda identifies six Russian Dolls that influence and shape a leader’s transformation:

  1. Personal Doll
  2. Leadership Doll
  3. Executive Team Doll
  4. Extended Leadership Team Doll
  5. Organizational Doll
  6. Up-Line Doll

The Up-Line Doll has a very big impact on the speed and depth at which transformation can happen.  It might be an international parent company, a board of directors, or a state or federal regulatory body.

Flip the Traditional Hierarchy

If you want more power, give up more power.  Fuda writes:

“Practically speaking, leaders become implicitly accountable to people under their direct authority.  In so doing, they flip the traditional hierarchy and yield their positional power to standards that they and their team have agreed upon.  While you might think this means the leader is relinquishing power and control, I have learned that in fact the leader acquires more power to lead the organization and elicits a genuine and personal commitment from everyone else to live up to those standards.”

Living the Leadership Standards of Behavior

A powerful leadership transformation practice is to establish and model standards of leadership behavior.  Fuda writes:

“Paul had realized that a fundamental problem in his organization was poor leadership standards, which translated into a lack of commitment and accountability further down the organization.  To address this problem, we worked with Paul and his leadership team to formulate a set of standards to which they would all hold themselves accountable.  These standards included ‘we trust each other,’ ‘we deliver,‘ and ‘we are supportive.’  In Paul’s words, ‘It would no longer be good enough to get your targets.  You now needed to hit your targets and live the agreed standards if you wanted to be considered a success.’”

Overall, it’s a pragmatic and effective guide for driving leadership transformations.

Get the Book

Leadership Transformed: How Ordinary Managers Become Extraordinary Leaders, by Dr. Peter Fuda is available on Amazon:

Leadership Transformed: How Ordinary Managers Become Extraordinary Leaders, by Dr. Peter Fuda

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