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Leading with an Open Heart

Collaborative Leadership, Articles

Leadership has never been easy, but at the beginning of the twenty-first century, it is tougher than ever. As a nation, we are challenged by the events of September 11 and the ongoing threats that stunning day represents. As a society, we are challenged to maintain cherished values and rights and at the same time to change some of the missionary zeal with which we relate economically, politically, and culturally to other peoples. As an economy, we find our leaders and organizations more open and vulnerable due to increased scrutiny and persistent demands for transparency in the wake of Enron and Andersen. These and many other challenges require all of us to change some of our attitudes, habitual ways of doing things, and even deeply held values.

These are adaptive challenges. An adaptive challenge is not like technical work, in which you can prescribe a solution that doesn't require people to change. To meet adaptive challenges, people have to go through a period of painful adjustment. Leading people to make these changes is risky, because you are asking them to absorb various forms of loss -- asking them to out and out give up something in the interests of something to be maintained, to be conserved, or to be gained.

Ronald A. Heifetz & Marty Linsky

By Ronald A. Heifetz & Marty Linsky

Ronald A. Heifetz is founding director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Heifetz speaks and consults extensively in the United States and abroad. His widely acclaimed book, Leadership Without Easy Answers (1994) is now in its twelfth printing. His second book, Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading (written with Marty Linsky), has recently been published by Harvard Business School Press. Marty Linsky teaches at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where he chairs several of the School's executive programs on leadership. He consults widely on leadership and communications in the United States and abroad. A graduate of Williams College and Harvard Law School, Linsky has been a journalist and politician, having served as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

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