Course Overview

This class is for people employed in innovation-oriented jobs, such as engineering, design, or product management, who have achieved a certain level of seniority and responsibility, and are seriously examining how they can become the next generation of senior leadership, either through promotion within their current organizations, leaving to find a new organization that is a better fit, or by creating organizations of their own.

Ultimately, the curriculum is designed for people who want to change the world, and are awakening to the essential truth that doing so requires changing oneself. 

Everyone has something to learn from this curriculum, curated from a broad range of materials including modern leadership texts, but also psychology, software development practice, industrial organization, communication, negotiation, conflict resolution, neuroscience, mindfulness practices, and a bit of self-help.

Those new to management and leadership will discover the basics of how to be a good leader, and will have a head start on their peers who are simply struggling through their first assignments as managers, learning by observation and deduction alone. Those who have been practicing management for some time will be able to hone their skills as operators within their enterprise, developing a stronger ability to negotiate with their superiors, relate to their peers, and cultivate their reports into the next wave of leaders. Those in the latter half of their careers can build on their experience to ensure that the work they are doing truly aligns with their life goals and purpose, and remove all of the inessential noise and distraction so bothersome for leaders at the top of the food chain.

Three Pillars

The content is divided into three components, or “pillars”, that together form a coherent strategy for the ongoing self-development work necessary to become a great leader. While the content of these pillars can be consumed in any order, they are organized to provide skills that cumulatively build upon one another with the intention of empowering the learner to exert outsized influence over any organization of which they find themselves a member, regardless of their official role or title within that organization.

Through working with leaders in a broad range of organizations for over the last 20 years, I have found that most learners approach leadership development training with a common problem: how to make impactful and lasting change in their organization. The key to making that lasting change is the ability to influence other members of the organization to become change agents themselves, in alignment with some broader goal of organization transformation.

With a nod to the great Steven Covey’s recommendation to “begin with the end in mind”, the content is organized so that skills can be built cumulatively. The pillar that encapsulates the skills and tactics required to lead by influence is called Tipping the Organization, and it is presented last. 

Before one can become effective at Tipping the Organization, one must first master Effective Communication. This is because influencing others within your organization requires talking to them, with just the right words at just the right time, within an overall strategy of organization change. Effective Communication includes material that deals with active listening and empathy, a critical prerequisite of making your own voice heard, and inspiring those around you to act in ways they may not have done on their own.

Finally, listening with empathy is only possible when the listener has achieved a certain degree of self-knowledge. And that is why the first pillar, the Grounded Self, is focused on uncovering those patterns and preconceptions that haunt all of us and get in the way of our thinking with clarity and focus, avoiding negative self-talk, and acting with purpose. 

Pillar 1 - The Grounded Self

The Grounded Self is so named because each of the sections contained within it focus on the goal of developing a strong, resilient self that is grounded in a sense of purpose.

Our society is becoming increasingly aware that people are not motivated simply by financial reward. Studies show that beyond a minimum set of comfort requirements, the degree to which individuals experience happiness in their lives does not increase, and can even decrease, as their financial resources increase. While some get there sooner than others, most individuals eventually awaken to the desire to be part of something bigger than themselves. An individual with purpose can achieve anything that is possible within the existing set of resources and constraints in their environment, and typically have far more potential for greatness than those around them who have not yet discovered this sense of purpose.

Pillar 2 - Effective Communication

The second pillar, Effective Communication, leverages the skills from The Grounded Self to deal with the intractable problem that most of a leader's job involves talking to people. With the end goal in mind of being able to influence other members of an organization to assist in enacting lasting changes to culture, systems, processes, and even mission, requires a series of ongoing conversations with one individual at a time, and occasional group conversations. The mindful leader can communicate effectively in all of these conversations.

Pillar 3 - Tipping the Organization

The final pillar, Tipping the Organization, empowers the learner to enact lasting and impactful change by building strong and cooperative relationships with allies across the organization, and motivating and inspiring them to move with purpose in a coordinated fashion to achieve the change required. In many ways, this mirrors the grassroots political campaign, in that one must tirelessly engage in a series of one-on-one conversations, slowly nudging each player into their position and inspiring them into action at the right times. At once, the leader is coach, teacher, and visionary, and operating at the Tipping the Organization level is playing the real game of executing against a clearly thought out strategy of moving the organization toward a better and more positive state than the one it is currently in.