Tools for Coaching the Post-Heroic Leader

Dr. Jeffry W. HullToday we have Dr. Jeffrey Hull. Dr. Hull has been coaching for over 20 years. He is a founding partner and the CEO of LeaderShift. It’s a boutique management consultancy based in New York City. He is also the Clinical Instructor in Psychology at the Harvard Medical School, and the Director of Education and Business Development at the Institute of Coaching at the McClean Hospital, Harvard Medical School. He is also an adjunct Professor in Leadership at NYU.

His background includes over 20 years of consulting experience with the C-Suite executives across the globe. He has also been an HR leader, so can really bring some very interesting information for some multiple viewpoints. He’s the author of the highly acclaimed book on personal and leadership transformation called, “Shift: Let Go of Fear and Get Your Life in Gear.”

Dr. Relly Nadler: Dr. Hull, welcome to the program. Thank you so much for doing this. Let’s start off with something we like to ask folks. Who have been some of you major leadership influences in your life? Then we’ll talk about the post-heroic leader, in which you have immersed yourself.

Dr. Jeffrey Hull: That’s a good question. There are so many. I would say everything from some of the best clients that I have had that are role models. I have worked with people that just exemplify the kind of leadership that I always want to instill in my clients, so I have learned from them.

As far as some of the thought leaders, probably some of the names that you know and others that your listeners know well. People like Dan Siegel, Dan Goleman, Otto Scharmer; some of those thought leaders have been very impactful on me and the work, in fact, that we are going to talk about today.

Then I would have to talk to say in the coaching world, folks like David Peterson at Google, my boss at the Institute of Coaching, Carol Kauffman. They are really my role models for executive coaching. So there are role models in the thought world, client world, and in the coaching world for me.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Jeff as you are speaking, one of the things that you and Relly have both brought up in this short amount of time that we have been on the air is something, and correct me if I’m wrong, called post-heroic leadership, or post-heroic behaviors of leaders. Can you address that a little bit and explain to both myself and the audience, what that means? It certainly touches my heart given that I work closely with our special forces.

Dr. Jeffrey Hull: I’m happy to explain it. The term post-heroic is something that I have latched onto but it’s not a phrase that I can take credit for. If you Google it you’ll find there have been articles and there have been other folks that have written about this phenomenon that I’m calling post-heroic leadership. Another way of saying it is post-patriarchal leadership, or post-autocratic leadership. But I think the fundamental theme is this idea that leadership as a practice is evolving such that the theory that charismatic, single individual with a particular type of personality, very extroverted, very directive, very type A, that type of individual is no longer the only paradigm, the only paragon for leadership. As the world becomes more global and leadership ranks become more diverse, there’s just a whole new wave of leadership styles and leadership competencies that are emerging that for lack of a better term, is really post-heroic, where people are just much more diverse in their approaches to what constitutes effective leadership.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: I think that one of the things that we should talk about is how you see this post-patriarchal leadership rolling out into our current environment. What are some of the concepts and some of the approaches that we can benefit from?

Dr. Relly Nadler: You have these Nine Shifts that you bring in, and it’s probably in your book too. Tell us a little bit about the Nine Shifts and then what we want to do is go through them as time permits and get some of your input on them.

Dr. Jeffrey Hull: Sure, I’d be happy to do that. Before I jump into the Nine Shifts, it might be useful to just give you a frame for where this idea came from.

Basically you kind of hinted at it at the beginning of the show when you mentioned transformation going on in the workplace around the boomer generation and then the new millennial leaders are coming up. Basically it is because of my observations with those two cohorts and the changes going on that led me to develop this framework that I’m calling the Post-Heroic Leadership Assessment which has nine dimensions. The core of it is recognizing that at some point many of the senior leaders, the baby boomers that are in the C-suite now, are being confronted with this major change about what it means to be a leader that I’m putting under as post-heroic. But, at the same time, the younger generation is coming up and they are demanding, in many cases, a whole different frame around leadership styles from their bosses. Then they are actually becoming different kinds of bosses; more participative, more networks, more collaborative, more relational. So you have this sort of connection of two different almost like two different Techtronic plates that are bumping up against each other.

What I have found in my coaching is that the senior executives who have been leading large organizations for many years, find it sometimes challenging to be asked to change their style. You talked earlier about emotional intelligence; if you really indoctrinate yourself into the ideas and theories of emotional intelligence, you may fundamentally have to change the way you have been leading if you have been doing it from a stance of command and control over the years.

Likewise, if you are coming up as a young leader and you are really not looking to become sort of the old hierarchical command and control style leader, you may be thinking about how else can I do this? What are the newest ways to operate effectively in a leadership mode?

What I tried to do is to create an assessment that wouldn’t necessarily say that there is a right or wrong way to lead but it would generate a dialog with people that I’m coaching in terms of them trying to understand their natural strength around some of these attributes and competencies and then thinking about when they would want to have flexibility and agility because there are times when you do want to be very directive and very autocratic lets say in an emergency situation or crisis. Then at other times when you want to have more of these new ideas that are emerging over the last 10-15 years and be more emotionally intelligent, more mindful, more collaborative, more partnership oriented. The idea is to help leaders develop a flexible style where they have access to a variety of these capabilities.

Dr. Relly Nadler: That’s great Jeff and very well stated. It ties in with all of the work that Cathy and I are doing along with yourself and the coaches that you work with.

Dr. Jeffrey Hull: I think that fundamentally this is sometimes challenging especially for some of the leaders that we work with in the C-suite that have been in organizations for many years. They are most likely baby boomers and they are reading the books. We are all out there reading Dan Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence, reading your work, Relly, on emotional intelligence. It’s not always that easy to turn on a dime and say, okay, I have five or six direct reports, I have a few hundred people working for me; yesterday I was kind of a command and control type leader and now tomorrow I’ m going to become an emotionally intelligent, collaborative, network leader. It’s not that simple. So as a coach, we want to have tools that can help the leader to frame up their strengths and their opportunities and that is where this work came from.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Jeff, when you are thinking about this work, you called it an assessment. Can you talk a little bit about more about how you use the assessment and where people can find it if they want to look at it or review it or get more information about it.

Dr. Jeffrey Hull: Yes. Let me answer the second question first. Right now that framework of the assessment is sort of in a trial stage. I am doing research with it with my clients and also with colleagues. So it’s not available publicly. It needs more validation at this stage. But, I’d be happy to share it with colleagues or anyone who is listening who would like to explore this topic. They can always email me and I’m sure you can give out my contact information.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Why don’t you give us your preferred email now?

Dr. Jeffrey Hull: Probably the easiest is [email protected]. If you email me I would be happy to share with you a draft copy of this assessment.

Back to your earlier question about the assessment, what I’ve done is I’ve taken nine dimensions of what I’m calling this post-heroic leadership style and I put it into a framework where people can do a self-assessment. They can go through the nine dimensions and think about how they would rate themselves in terms of the shift from sort of a pre-heroic to a post-heroic stance of a leader. They can also share this assessment with their subordinates so that it can be used as 360 tool. Again, just to underline; it’s not about having a perfect score or saying that one style of leadership is better than another, but this does create an opportunity for people to see where they are on the spectrum and then that can become a development tool.

Dr. Relly Nadler: What I like about this Jeff it’s almost like emotional intelligence. It really allows for a really engaging, dynamic conversation. When you think about how you bring about change for the leaders, how do you bring about change for coaches; it’s really this conversation. I mean it’s not like you can tell someone, hey, go do this. It’s the conversation, the understanding, the ability to get insight and then turn insight into action; that we are all involved in.

Dr. Jeffrey Hull: Yah, and where do these nine dimensions emerge from? It’s the research that is being done around effective leadership. What I also find, and I’m also sure you find this with your listeners and your clients, is that many of the folks we work with are reading the books. So, they are aware of the theories and the research but the idea that is challenging is how do you then implement that in the real world.

To your point, this is really helpful for a coach to be able to generate a conversation with a client and hopefully as I like to use the word “shift,” to transition to a more post-heroic style.

To find out more about the nine dimensions and how they apply to you as a leader, listen to the complete interview with Dr. Jeffrey Hull, above, without commercials.


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