Monday, October 1, 2012

Putting more open leadership into practice: A great interview example

One of the fundamental tenets of contemporary leadership thinking, particularly the leadership of creativity and innovation, is the value of ceding control and empowering others -- subordinates and peers, customers and clients alike.  Enabling others through a greater understanding of what they find fulfilling and inspiring them to do what organizations need to be done become every bit as important for leaders as aligning structural capabilities and adapting to fast-changing environmental and marketplace conditions.  More open leadership (to use Charlene Li's term) becomes the basis for greater creativity, efficiency, communication, and overall worker and organizational well-being.

The idea seems both supported by research into the most successful and innovative corporations of the last two decades and by intuitive acceptance as the kind of approach we as leaders should be able to take.  This is potentially more effective leadership that's at once kindler and gentler.  Everybody wins.  Yet as I've repeatedly realized in working with executives, the challenge to the idea is putting it into practice.  That's not an unusual challenge with leadership and management ideas, rules or tips, of course, but the shift in mindset required of more open leadership makes its consistent, practical implementation particularly difficult.

So I was especially pleased when, in reading a recent blogpost by Anthony K. Tjan, an excellent example of how this changed mindset and more open approach to leadership could be illustrated and practiced.  Tjan wrote at the end of last week on the HBR Blog Network about what he called, "The Most Important Job Interview Question" (  Most interviews, he noted, involve "one-way questioning" about candidates' past jobs, skills, work ethic and other attributes that ultimately speak to the question of "Why should you matter to us?"  The more vital question and practical question, Tjan proposes, is "If you were given this opportunity, would you take it?" And the reasons why.

It's a great, brief idea to tuck away for your next job interview.  But more generally, it's also a very concrete example of shifting a leadership mindset to focus on others.  In doing so, the leader cedes control and in exchange takes an important step toward building more robust relationships and more fully embracing others' values and what they might mean to an organization.  

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