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The Leadership Odyssey


Harvard Business Review


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

Ibarra H;Hildebrand C A;Vinck S


Publication Year



A paradox of business is that while leaders often employ a hands-on, directive style to rise to the top, once they arrive, they’re supposed to empower and enable their teams. Suddenly, they’re expected to demonstrate “people skills.” And many find it challenging to adapt to that reality. To understand how leaders can successfully make this shift, the authors studied 75 CEO successions, involving 235 candidates. They discovered that the trans- formation is not a single event but unfolds over time and takes many twists and turns. It’s a long journey with three stages: the departure, during which leaders recognize the need to change and leave behind their old ways of working; the voyage, during which they encounter obstacles and trials that teach them important lessons; and the return, when they arrive at a new understanding of what kind of leader they need to be. Completing this odyssey requires humility, self-awareness, and resilience. Several key practices will help executives along the way: understanding the extent of the change required, creating new contexts for learning, enlisting the help of advisers, learning from setbacks, and tapping the power of small wins.

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