Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader | Herminia Ibarra

Summary of: Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader
By: Herminia Ibarra


Embark on a journey to transform your leadership style with Herminia Ibarra’s insightful book, ‘Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader.’ Debunking the myth that self-examination is the key to change, Ibarra calls for an ‘outsight’ approach, where taking action leads to growth. Discover practical ways to avoid the ‘competency trap’ and unlock your potential beyond your current expertise. Through story-telling and embracing change, you will learn to network effectively, adapt to new environments, and identify your authentic leadership style. This summary will guide you in becoming a chameleon leader who seizes opportunities and motivates others with purpose and passion.

Action, not Introspection

Herminia Ibarra challenges the myth promoted in most self-help books that change and growth come from excessive introspection. Rather, action, experimentation, and moving ahead inspire new thinking and learning for both individuals and organizations. Ibarra backs up her argument with research and highlights that change from the inside out is merely an illusion. She emphasizes that focusing outwardly on leading and taking action, especially during times of uncertainty, is the key to becoming a successful leader while growing self-knowledge through increased action.

Beware the Competency Trap

Emerging leaders should beware the competency trap, warns Ibarra. The trap occurs when managers rely too heavily on their narrow expertise, causing others to resent them and making it difficult to adapt to changing company needs. This phenomenon isn’t limited to managers; anyone skilled in a particular area can fall into this trap. Ibarra cautions against over-investing in one’s specific tasks, warning that concentrating solely on day-to-day details under-serves both the individual and the company. By assuming everyone values their expertise as highly as they do, individuals risk a rude awakening and missing important opportunities. Unfortunately, the competency trap is counterintuitive because it’s only when individuals excel at one thing that they fall into it. While gaining expertise in other areas can be costly, Ibarra emphasizes the long-term benefits of doing so. Don’t prioritize the urgent over the essential, or you risk becoming hostage to your own competency.

The Outsight Principle

The key to thinking like a leader is to first act. This is the Outsight Principle, the core idea of Herminia Ibarra’s book. To chart a new course of action, one must begin practicing new behavior. Doing inspires new thinking while thinking seldom inspires new ways of doing. This concept also applies to learning, where the best way to learn is by doing, as it increases self-knowledge. To apply the Outsight Principle, one must plunge into new projects and activities, interact with different people, and experiment with unfamiliar ways of getting things done.

True Leaders Take Action

Leadership is about taking action and involving people in change. Becoming a leader requires doing leadership work, such as bridging different cultures and imagining new possibilities. Waiting for permission or feeling ready to lead will only hold you back. Self-analysis should come after action, not before, and true leaders never pigeonhole themselves. By acting like a leader, others will see you as a leader, and you will see yourself that way too.

The Power of Storytelling in Leadership

According to author Herminia Ibarra, telling a good story is key to boosting recognition as a leader. This was exemplified by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, who spoke about the root causes of women’s absence in Silicon Valley at a TED talk. Her talk went viral and led to her best-selling book Lean In. Ibarra advises that all enduring stories have a beginning-middle-end structure and share crucial basic traits. Resonant stories need an engaging protagonist with a catalyst that forces them to act, creating challenges that shape their identity. The story ends with a turning point as the protagonist changes paths to deal with future challenges. Despite the importance of agility in today’s world, people still find it hard to reinvent themselves as it clashes with how they think about their jobs and themselves. Ibarra’s advice on storytelling is sound and can help leaders gain recognition.

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