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Is leadership in crisis? Interview with Dr. Marcia Reynolds

This month we are starting a new series of interviews. "Interview with brains" has an interesting concept behind it. The person being interviewed will do the next interview with a person he/she chooses, and then this person will take the next interview and so on...Each published interview will be rewarded with another interview...we will brain it forward!

I will start with a a very interesting interview on leadership. I found out that Dr. Marcia Reynolds will be in Bucharest for a conference and I wanted to know her opinion on leadership. In an era when everybody is displeased by the young generation of employees, is leadership in a crisis? What are the challenges of today's leader? How will the leader of tomorrow look like?

Dr. Reynolds, President of Covisioning LLC, works with clients around the world who seek to develop effective leaders. She understands organizational cultures, what blocks communication and innovation, and what is needed to bring people together for better results. She has coached leaders, designed organizational change programs, delivered leadership, coaching and emotional intelligence classes, and spoken at conferences in 34 countries.

Excerpts from her books Outsmart Your Brain and Wander Woman have appeared in many places including Harvard Management Review, Employment Relations Today,,, Psychology Today and The Los Angeles Times and she has appeared on ABC World News.

Her new book, The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs, will be available at the conference in Bucharest. The author will have also a signing session for those who buy the book. Or you can join her in a very interesting workshop on November 30th.

Q.: What makes a great leader great?

A.: A great leader is defined by those who work for them, not by the goals they accomplish. They might be a results-focused leader, but inspiring people to give extra time and whole-hearted effort depends on how the leader makes them feel. Specifically in our chaotic and unpredictable world, people want to feel understood when they are confused, frustrated, or overwhelmed, they want to feel valued by the leader for what they try as well as what they produce, and they want to know that the leader cares about their future. To do this, leaders need to have one-on-one conversations where they listen and ask questions to understand, show they value the person, and they not only care, but also believe that the person can succeed even when the employee is doubting him or herself. I frequently tell my executive coaching clients, “They want you to be present more than they need you to be perfect.”

Q.: Do you see a difference between the leader of yesterday and the leader of today? Has the new generation changed something in how we see the leader, how we want a leader to be?

A.: I don’t believe that what we want from our leaders has changed, but in the past, we never expected our leaders to act this way. When I worked in the corporate world, I expected my leader to tell me what to do and argue with me if I disagreed. I didn’t expect him to listen and support my ideas. Today’s workers have higher expectations of their leaders. They expect to be listened to, to be valued for their contribution, and for the leader to help prepare them for the future. Their expectations are forcing a shift in leadership behavior, and this is good for everyone!

Q.: What is your opinion about the way Generation Z is shaping the business environment, do you believe that the values of a leader will change in the future taking into consideration this generation visions upon the world of business?

A.: If leaders want to retain their best employees, especially the younger generation with the most potential, they need to change. Generation Z expects a more collaborative environment. In fact, research shows that they are asking for their leaders to have Coaching Skills, which is showing up in the top 5 leadership skills around the world. Google places it at #1. The two other skills they are asking their leaders to demonstrate are empathy which requires they develop their Emotional Intelligence, and the ability to trust more quickly that people and teams can accomplish great things if visions and goals are clear.

Q.: What are leaders most difficult tasks?

A.: With all of this, the leader is still responsible for meeting goals, saving money, and taking calculated risks to ensure ongoing growth. They must not lose this focus. However, if they engage their teams more fully, be willing to ask for their ideas, and to champion even the youngest employee who stands out, the leader will reach his or her own goals more quickly. Also, leaders needs to be careful not to punish people for making mistakes. Instead, leaders need to ask people what they learned from the mistake and what they will do differently next time. If leaders help people learn and grow, everyone wins.

Q.: Please name 3 books that you recommend reading on leadership topic? Books that inspired you

A.: Other than my book, The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs J, books that inspired me are:

A classic book called On Dialogue by David Bohm

The Future of Management by Gary Hamel

The Outward Mindset by the Arbinger Institute

I also love Aequacy by one of your other speakers (at the conference in Bucharest), Stefano Petti and Giovanna D’Alessio!

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