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

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


Dive into ‘Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader’ by Herminia Ibarra and discover a new approach to leadership that challenges common misconceptions. In this enlightening book, Ibarra debunks the myth that introspection precedes action, asserting that true growth comes from experimentation and embracing new leadership responsibilities. Uncover the dangers of the ‘competency trap’ as you learn how to balance daily tasks with strategic foresight. The author introduces the ‘outsight principle,’ revealing that taking action and thinking like a leader go hand-in-hand. Learn how to expand your professional network, craft compelling stories, foster authenticity, and adapt chameleon-like to new situations while remaining true to yourself.

Lead by Doing

Herminia Ibarra’s book ‘Act Like a Leader, Think like a Leader’ dispels the myth that self-reflection is the key to personal and professional growth. Instead, she argues that you should take action, experiment, and experience new things. According to her research, introspection often leads to inaction and self-doubt. The author suggests that you should focus on moving forward through experimentation and action, and the more you lead, the more your self-knowledge and understanding will grow. So, instead of waiting for change to happen from within, take control and lead from the outside.

Beware the Competency Trap

Emerging leaders risk becoming trapped in their competencies, warns Ibarra in her book. While it’s tempting to stick to what you’re good at, remaining in a narrow area of expertise can create problems, especially if your company’s needs change. This trap is counterintuitive, as it only affects those who are great at their job. As a result, they may overinvest in their skills, thinking past successes guarantee future accomplishments. Athletes and other professionals also fall into this trap. Ibarra urges readers to focus on the important rather than the urgent and avoid under-serving themselves and their companies by only concentrating on day-to-day tasks. The higher the costs of gaining expertise in a new skill, the more excelling at one thing can lead to a rude awakening that others see the world differently.

The Power of Doing

The Outsight Principle reveals that the best way to think and learn is to first act. In her book, Ibarra emphasizes the importance of practicing new behavior to encourage new thinking. The principle advises stepping out of one’s comfort zone and diving into new projects, interacting with diverse individuals, and experimenting with unfamiliar ways of getting things done. The more you do, the more you grow in self-knowledge, and the more effective you become in leadership and learning.

Leaders Lead by Leading

True leaders engage in leadership activities like bridging between people and cultures, imagining new possibilities, involving people in change and leading by example. Waiting for permission or feeling ready won’t make one a leader. Self-analysis should come after one acts and not before, as self-analysis leads to self-paralysis. Leaders need to act like leaders to become leaders.

The Power of Storytelling in Leadership

The ability to tell a compelling story is essential for effective leadership. In her book, Herminia Ibarra highlights the importance of using storytelling to increase recognition and influence. For example, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg recognized the absence of women in Silicon Valley and addressed the root causes in a viral TED talk that formed the basis for her best-selling book, Lean In. Ibarra emphasizes that all enduring stories have a beginning, middle, and end structure and share common traits. Resonant stories need an engaging protagonist who faces a catalyst that disrupts the natural order, and challenges that form their identity. As the story ends, the protagonist reaches a turning point and changes their path and methods to overcome future obstacles. Though most people understand the importance of agility, they find it challenging to reinvent themselves as it clashes with how they see their jobs and themselves. By mastering storytelling, leaders can effectively communicate their vision and inspire others to follow.

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