INSEAD book reveals experimentation is the only route to become a leader

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‘Act like a leader, think like a leader’ claims introspection anchors us in the past, impedes change and holds back careers.

INSEAD, the leading international business school, today announced the publication of a new book written by Herminia Ibarra, an INSEAD professor ranked as one of the world’s top ten business thinkers. The book, ACT LIKE A LEADER, THINK LIKE A LEADER, argues that you have to act your way into a new type of leadership thinking, instead of thinking your way into it.

Many people believe that introspection and self-reflection are the holy grail of leadership development. But research shows, that this process is limited. THINK LIKE A LEADER, ACT LIKE A LEADER shows why we can only increase our self-knowledge in the process of making changes. Contrary to popular opinion, “insight-out” thinking, or introspection, can actually impede change by anchoring people in their habitual patterns of thought and action. Instead, we need to develop what Ibarra calls ‘outsight,’ the fresh, external perspective you can only get by plunging into new projects and activities, interacting with different kinds of people, and experimenting with unfamiliar ways of getting things done.

The only way to think like a leader is to first act like one, Herminia points out in her book. New ways of doing your job on a daily basis will, in turn, slowly change the way you think about your work and yourself, allowing you to let go of outdated habits and sources of self-esteem, so you can expand your capacity to be a leader. The more you experiment with acting like a leader, the more you and others will perceive you as one. That’s the road to leadership.

Ibarra’s findings are illuminated with practical lessons from inspiring leaders of all stripes:

From writer Michael Lewis we learn that it’s better to be a chameleon than a “true-to-selfer”

Former Ogilvy & Mather CEO Charlotte Beers advises leaders to remember that it’s who they are and not their analysis that persuades and inspires best

Margaret Thatcher embodied her personal experience to crystallize a galvanizing political message

Bruce Lee lived by the mantra “Be Like Water” to adapt to new situations and grow from them

And Sheryl Sandberg’s public recognition as a leader came mostly from accomplishments outside of her day job as COO of Facebook such as her TED talk and bestselling book.

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