Rakesh Wadhwa:

What is your take on leader and the role of leadership in the context of dealing with uncertainty?


Rita McGrath:

So one of the things that's critical about leaders today is that we have this mental image of this guy on a horse with a sword and the person in that role is going to find their vision. Everybody has to fall in line behind them. And maybe that works in relatively stable and certain environments. But what I'm seeing leaders do today that's much more effective. Linda Hill, my esteemed colleague from Harvard, talks about your job is increasingly to take individual slices of genius and knit them together into collective genius.

Satya Nadela of Microsoft is a brilliant example of this where he's not sort of telling people what to do. He's saying here are the leading indicators. And in his case he talks about customer love, he talks about usage. He talks about really making Microsoft the partner of choice for a lot of organizations. But he's not telling people what to do. He's saying here's what we're driving. We want to drive customer love. Each individual person at Microsoft is now responsible for figuring out what that means in their particular role. So I see leaders increasingly being able to create these webs of inclusion. Hearing many voices, diversity of thought is so important. I don’t mean diversity in this sort of check the box politically correctly but I mean really listening to people who come from different places. They've had different experiences who are different from yourself and really listening to those voices.

Another core idea in this whole model of what leaders need to be able to do now is Amy Edmondson's concept of psychological safety that you have to empower people to speak up because if they don't it can actually lead them literally to fatal disasters. And she studied healthcare. She studied airlines in places where people who see what's going on but don't feel they can speak the truth. They get penalized that's really really dangerous. And so the model of leadership is much more about certainly shaping the goals, shaping the vision but then bringing out in people each individual's unique contribution to what that future could look like.

That's where we're moving. And as a society one of the interesting aspects of that new model for leadership if you think about the way women lead historically, has been much more of that right? Women tend to be much more collaborative and much more welcoming of different points of view much more able to create these webs of inclusion. And as we're in the midst of COVID it's very interesting to me to look at countries that are run by women and compare their stories to countries that have been run by men. And what you see is an awful lot of very competent women seem to be doing better at dealing with the virus then many other situations where the men are kind of saying here's what's the truth. The truth the virus doesn't really care.