Choose a Leadership Expert

This month, we feature – ever so briefly – five top leadership experts in the English-speaking world. Each holds their own against the others in spite of very different methodologies and philosophies. In other words, there’s no right or wrong way to lead; it’s about choosing the best path for you and the context you find yourself in.

Our hope is that this introduction will give you a taste of their philosophy and approach, and enable you to decide whether you’d like to learn more about them (which you can do by simply clicking the links provided).

Amy C. Edmondson says the stable, bounded, clearly-defined teams of the past are disappearing; and that because of that, leaders have to recognize that team-building must be done within the context of doing the work itself. She calls it teaming. “The individuals that report to you have to learn how to relate quickly to people they don’t know, and because people can’t work together effectively unless there’s trust, they have to quickly build it,” she says. She suggests you have team-members: (1) Refer to others who have worked with the person for guidance; (2) Express interest in the new team member in order to find common ground; and (3) Once that’s done, gently establish your own credentials. Caution team-members not to over-share. And if they’re teaming with people from different cultures in different parts of the world, make sure people are clear about appropriate topics for discussions.

Herminia Ibarra wants you to act like a leader in order to think like a leader. She believes we learn from action and experience, not introspection and analysis ‒ a belief flies that in the face of today’s leadership gurus who encourage us to look deeply into our strengths and weaknesses. In other words, she encourages us to change from the outside in.

Kevin Cashman is dedicated to fostering ethical leadership in corporations. In order to behave ethically, he believes leaders need to set aside time for contemplation…to constructively pause so that their experience and knowledge can bubble up and influence the quality of our decisions ‒ the kind of decision-making that leads to innovation and growth.

Marshall Goldsmith says the key to changing leadership behaviour is by learning to learn from those around us and then modifying our behaviour on the basis of their suggestions. A proponent of the “360” review system, he believes companies have to determine the important characteristics they want in leaders; then establish a process so that people can align their behaviours with those values. Incidentally, leaders who asked colleagues for suggestions on ways to improve and who continually reported in on their progress, showed striking improvement.

Robin Sharma has a ‘lead by example’ philosophy. He believes we achieve true leadership through personal growth and excellence, and that in this new, diverse, and rapidly-changing economy, leadership belongs to everyone. His approach is common sense-based: do the right things; give our best in whatever we do; take small daily steps to grow.


References & Suggested Reading Materials

Cashman, K. (2012) The Pause Principle: Step Back to Learn Forward. San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler

Edmondson,Amy C. (2013) Teaming to Innovate. New York, Jossey-Bass

Goldsmith, M. & Beckhard R. & HesselbeinF.(1996) The Leader of the Future. New York,Jossey-Bass

Ibarra, H. (2003) Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career. Harvard Business School Press, and her forthcoming book Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader (February 2015 – Excerpt available at

Sharma, R. (2010) The Leader Who Had No Title. New York, Simon & Schuster


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