It’s a new decade, and you’re committed to realizing every last ounce of your leadership potential. These titles from our Organization Practice colleagues will help. They offer masterclasses in how to develop, shape, and improve leadership within organizations of thousands or teams of one. Catch a glimpse of each in the interviews below.
By McKinsey’s Leadership Development Practice co-founder Claudio Feser; former McKinsey Organization Practice global leader Michael Rennie; and McKinsey Associate Partner Nicolai Chen Nielsen, with whom we spoke.
Why another book on leadership?
There are so many different definitions of what leadership even is. Is it a mindset? Is it about outcomes? It may be a bit of both.
In our book, we’ve defined leadership as a discrete set of observable behaviors that are highly context-dependent. What works in one organization can be very wrong for another.
We also believe the current understanding around leadership is limiting. People often believe that leadership qualities are innate, that they can’t be taught. If that were true, there would be a finite number of leaders. We don’t believe that’s the case.
Furthermore, we believe it’s harmful for organizations to limit their own pool of potential leaders. We believe that organizations can and should build a sizeable cadre of leaders.
In our book, we show that organizations that build a critical mass of leaders tend to outperform those that focus on the very few. We’re dedicated to developing a large number of leaders for every organization.
What will readers find in “Beyond Performance 2.0” that they didn’t in the first edition of the book?
The first edition emphasized what a healthy organization looks like and then described the change management process necessary to get there. The emphasis of “Beyond Performance 2.0” is on the change management process itself.
We’ve also built in all of our learnings over the past decade, during which our research base has significantly expanded. It now includes over five million inputs from over 2000 companies around the world.
Finally, we’ve reformatted the book to be a practical step-by-step guide for change leaders who are serious about beating the odds of success. And those odds aren’t great: something like 70 percent of companies that attempt a transformation of some kind end up failing at it.
By McKinsey Organization Practice Consultant Kayvan Kian.
What’s the central argument of “What is Water?”
In an increasingly complex world, a thriving life depends on recognizing what you can control and what you can’t.
You talk a lot about the context for young people coming into leadership roles today.
Many young people feel overwhelmed by the complex and rapidly changing world they have inherited. I’ve heard an acronym to describe it: VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.
Focusing on the things people can’t control can wear them down. I’ve seen that happen firsthand. So I created a program called the Young Leaders Forum (YLF), a McKinsey Academy program for client leaders in their 20s and 30s, to show people how to identify the factors they actually can control.
Finally, what’s the story behind the title of your book?
It was inspired by David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005. It’s about the importance of being aware of your context – and how hard that actually is.
In the speech, he shares an anecdote where an older fish asks two younger fish, “Morning! How’s the water?” One of the younger fish asks the other, “What is water?” I think it fits.