Earlier this Fall, New Kind was asked to lead a learning session with the Eisenhower Fellowships. The theme of the meeting was, “Rapid Change, Rapid Challenge; Addressing the Challenges of Response in an Ever-Changing Environment.”
For those who have not heard of the Eisenhower Fellowship (a truly great organization) its purpose is to “engage emerging leaders from around the world to enhance their professional capabilities, broaden their contacts, deepen their perspectives, and unite them in a diverse, global community – a network where dialogue, understanding and collaboration lead to a more prosperous, just and peaceful world.”
The organization is led by John Wolfe, a former US Foreign Service Officer, Assistant Secretary of State and US Ambassador to Malaysia. In the late 90’s I was fortunate to have served as a private sector member of the US Delegation to the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) Meeting in Singapore and met Ambassador Wolfe at that time. The organization could not have a better leader.
I am also privileged to personally know a number of Eisenhower Fellows who have participated in the program from North Carolina and they are the best of the best, so I was very excited when New Kind was asked to participate in their meeting.
My presentation dealt with “Leading Through Adversity,” a situation that all leaders face at one time or another in their career. I shared some real life examples of challenges I faced as an executive early in my Red Hat career and how I dealt with them.
My colleague David Burney talked about the changing management paradigm around the concept of “openness.” In particular, he explained how the management of the best corporations and organizations in the world was evolving from command and control to an environment where the best ideas win, without regard to the hierarchical rank of the person offering them. He also shared the importance of leaders being able to effectively tell their organizations’ stories.
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to work for some of the world’s best known and successful companies led by some of the world’s greatest leaders. It was always amazing to me how some executives were able to climb the corporate ladder, but still were unable to effectively tell the story of the company.
At New Kind we pride ourselves on being able to help complex organizations tell their stories simply, so that their employees, executives, stakeholders and most importantly, their customers understand why they exist. We believe that stories are at the very heart of any movement, whether social, political, or even the type that helps Apple sell more iPhones or Starbucks sell more coffee.
My colleague, Matt Munoz used his time with the Eisenhower Fellows to offer a primer on design thinking and how it can be an important tool for leaders of high-performance organizations. He cited the 2010 Global CEO survey’s finding that “CEOs now realize that creativity trumps other leadership characteristics.” He explained how design thinking focuses on the use of creativity as a tool to solve problems.
The Eisenhower Fellows were given an opportunity to test some of the concepts that they heard from us in breakout groups as well.
Judging from the feedback that we received from the Eisenhower Fellows, both at the conclusion of our session and through subsequent emails that we have received from around the world since the meeting, the participants understood our messages and considered our presentations a valuable use of their time.
We learned a lot too. And it was a great honor and privilege for us to have the opportunity to share our philosophy about what it really takes for a leader to be successful in the 21st century, especially with such an important group of leaders from around the world.