Top Menu

15 Years of Leadership Lessons | Next Step Partners

Top Leadership Lessons and Resources

We at Next Step Partners are celebrating our 15th anniversary.

After many years of partnering with organizations committed to achieving their strategic objectives through their people, we wanted to share our leadership lessons from working with so many outstanding leaders during this time. In addition, we’re sharing 22 of our favorite resources on leadership development.

Our hope is that you’ll find some inspiration in these resources to take your leadership and that of your team or organization to the next level. It’s not an overstatement to say that we’ve learned a lot from our clients. And if you’ve been one of them, we owe you a sincere thanks because we’ve learned so much from you!

Developing a growth mindset

Rebecca Zucker | Next Step Partners

Thoughts from Rebecca Zucker | San Francisco

I have learned a tremendous amount from my work with clients over the last 15 years. One of the most significant leadership lessons I’ve taken away is the importance of having a growth mindset—both about oneself and others. People with a growth mindset view mistakes and failures as not only inevitable, but as precisely how we learn and grow; whereas those with a fixed mindset view mistakes or failures as a statement about how good or smart they are and don’t believe that people—including themselves—are capable of change.

A growth mindset is imperative when it comes to developing resilience, taking risks and facilitating innovation as well as playing an important part in giving and receiving feedback and being a good developer of people. It allows us to be open to feedback and genuinely curious when things don’t turn out well, versus being defensive. A growth mindset also allows us to be compassionate with ourselves (and others) when things go awry, versus engaging in the continuous rumination and beating up of oneself that doesn’t do anyone any good.

A growth mindset is imperative when it comes to developing resilience. Click To Tweet

We’ve all been in a fixed mindset about someone or something at some point in time. The great part is that if you catch yourself in a fixed mindset, you can decide to shift to a growth mindset. It can be summed up by “Either I succeed or I learn—either way, I win.

Favorite resource | Mindset by Carol Dweck

This book shares research findings and illustrates applications of the growth versus fixed mindsets in many different contexts: business, leadership, sports, academics, parenting—every parent, manager and leader should read this book. If I could only recommend one book to all of my clients, this would be it.

Understanding your emotional goals

Heather Corcoran | Next Step Partners

Thoughts from Heather Corcoran | San Francisco

When we started NSP I was deeply interested in how we identify what we most desire in our careers or what I now think of as our emotional goals for our work. Over the last 15 years, I have only come to appreciate more how important this is, not only for those earlier in their careers, but also for successful leaders and those considering what may be their last significant career move.

When we understand our emotional goals, we can then make better decisions about how to shape our contributions, or the way we lead others so that we are highly effective and deeply satisfied.
When you understand your emotional goals, you can then make better decisions. Click To Tweet

For the leaders I work with, these decisions are often big ones. Their very success means that any decision they make can impact not only those closest to them, but whole organizations. And as they and their organizations have changed and grown, they need to step back and understand “who am I now?

My current “go to” tool is the Individual Directions Inventory, which provides clear insight into emotional goals quickly. For instance, with one leader it became clear that the goal she wanted to optimize for was taking on new creative challenges; for another, it was building supportive, mutually collaborative relationships in service of policy-changing initiatives, and for another, it was the endurance and intimate teamwork of starting multiple ventures. All successful leaders, running thriving organizations, with very different goal profiles, where the clarity of what they wanted to optimize for helped them see completely different next steps.

Favorite resource | Individual Directions by Management Research Group

Developed over 30 years, this assessment provides a nuanced insight that helps people see clearly where they derive their greatest energy and what depletes them. In addition, it is a good companion to any leadership competency tool because it indicates the behaviors that are consistent with a leader’s emotional goals and, therefore, easier to develop, and those that are more of a stretch.
Developing organizations and leaders
Shari Cohen | Next Step Partners

Thoughts from Shari Cohen | New York

In the 20 years I have been in this field, I have become very aware of the need to link the development of individual leaders with the development of their organizations. Each affects the other. Leadership growth never happens in an organizational vacuum; and organizational growth can’t happen without the continual development of individual leaders.

Leadership challenges differ based on where an organization is in its development—from founding and getting going, to the fun of growth, to catching up with growth to become a mature organization, to maintaining dynamism and innovation and avoiding bureaucratization once maturity is reached. And these challenges are similar across organizations:

  • Rapid growth, if you get there, requires an almost heroic commitment to pushing for results.
  • Moving from organizational adolescence with its growing pains, turbulence and chaos, to maturity as an organization, requires stepping back and making hard decisions about the talent needed for building and maintaining the systems and practices of a larger organization. It also requires changing habits, leading by example and challenging some of the founding myths and people of the earlier developmental stages.
  • Leading a mature organization that has transparency, accountability, common vision and a sense of individual motivation to innovate requires a more mature leadership style—leading from behind, developing people, pushing accountability down, allowing for failure and continuously innovating in the face of market changes.
With specific actions that fit an organization’s stage of development, real progress can be made. Click To Tweet I have found that once leaders see that they are not alone (their organization is not the most dysfunctional one ever), and that there are specific actions that fit the organization’s developmental stage, a lot falls into place and real progress can be made.

Favorite resource | Predictable Success by Les McKeown

This book has been very influential for me and for clients in crystalizing the ways in which organizational stages of development intersect with individual leader growth. It is evocative and easy to understand. Once you have looked at your organization through this frame, you can better understand what you are really facing as a leader and how to move ahead.

Leaders everywhere share the same struggles

Michael Melcher | Next Step Partners

Thoughts from Michael Melcher | New York

Cultures affect how people express themselves and the range of behaviors available to them, but culture isn’t as determinative as people think when it comes to lots of leadership behaviors.

I have worked on the ground with people in Tanzania, China, Myanmar, Thailand, Haiti, El Salvador, India, Norway and various other places and it is clear that people yearn for many of the same things and often struggle with similar obstacles.

People everywhere yearn for many of the same things and often struggle with similar obstacles. Click To Tweet

Everyone works in places where meaningful feedback is absent. Everyone is interested in their own career development. Everyone struggles between wanting to solve problems and equipping people with problem solving skills. Everyone runs into communication snafus. Everyone wonders on some level how they fit into organizations. Everyone needs to figure out who they really are as opposed to who they’ve been conditioned to be.

It’s useful to layer cultural factors on top of these questions, but it’s not useful to treat culture as precious, mysterious or sacred.

Favorite resource | Coaching Across Cultures by Philippe Rosinski

Instead of describing (or caricaturing) specific cultures, Rosinki lists a number of choices that cultures make around thinking, doing and being, and then examines how these show up – for instance “business before relationship” vs “relationship before business,” or “I control my destiny” vs. “life is something that happens to me.” These give the reader a set of variables to examine in any cultural context to demystify what might be at play.

After over 15 years of developing Leaders Without Limits, we’re sharing 22 of our favorite leadership resources. Our hope is that you’ll find some inspiration and new ideas in this free resource to take your leadership to the next level.
FREE Leadership Resource List
Leadership Resources | Next Step Partners
Get Leadership Resource List

The importance of confidence building

Melissa Karz | Next Step Partners

Thoughts from Melissa Karz | Los Angeles

What I have observed repeatedly through my coaching hundreds of leaders, is that they often hold themselves back from realizing their full potential out of fear of losing something—autonomy, credibility, status, a valued relationship, or the respect of others.

More specifically, many of the female executives I work with hold themselves back from projecting confidence in areas in which they don’t feel fully knowledgeable or experienced. They feel incompetent, when by any objective measure they are far from it. In fact, it’s not uncommon for them to experience feeling like “impostors” or “frauds.”

The way to gain the confidence you seek is to actually do the things you fear most. Click To Tweet As it turns out, facing one’s fears, taking risks, experiencing setbacks, and picking yourself up again, is precisely what needs to occur in order to gain that confidence, even when you don’t feel completely competent in a particular area.

The way to gain the confidence you seek is actually to do those things that you fear most. You will realize when you get different, productive results—even if not immediately—that you’re better than you think you are.

Time and time again, my clients have surprised themselves by growing from micromanagers to empowering leaders, from tactical supervisors to strategic visionary leaders, from directive communicators to active listeners, collaborators and relationship builders. Gaining that confidence is hard work. It can feel uncomfortable at times, but discomfort can be a good thing, as it enables you to ultimately find your voice and step into your power!

Favorite resource | Confidence Code by Katy Kay + Claire Shipman

I love the way that the authors break down the meaning and importance of confidence. They outline how women often don’t project confidence until they feel fully competent and how that works against them. Also, how their self-doubt and dwelling on past mistakes can be paralyzing and unproductive. The authors stress the importance of giving yourself permission to make mistakes and fail, realizing that these are breakdowns on the way to breakthroughs! Most importantly, they share how to achieve confidence!

Addressing your limiting beliefs

Jordan Stark | Next Step Partners

Thoughts from Jordan Stark | San Francisco

Regardless of how smart, accomplished or experienced you are, lasting change requires learning how to think in a different way about yourself. Having worked with senior leaders for nearly 25 years, I have seen how critical it is to help people understand and address the underlying mindsets that drive their behavior.

Most people lead and live in particular ways because they believe that those actions are what make them successful. That’s only partially true. While all leaders have certain lifelong strengths, those same gifts can become ingrained defense mechanisms, which can be difficult to unlock, even when there is a great desire to grow. And over time, defensive behaviors often risk or create the very outcomes people are trying to avoid.

It’s essential to look at the way you think about yourself, and why you do what you do, so that you can thrive in the face of new challenges and opportunities. The good news is that it’s very doable.
Surfacing and debunking longstanding, limiting beliefs is a very freeing and positive experience. Click To Tweet

Surfacing and debunking longstanding, limiting beliefs is also a very freeing and positive experience that goes well beyond becoming a star executive or CEO; life in general improves because people feel better and are able to lead and live with with greater wisdom.

Favorite resource | Immunity to Change by Robert Kegan + Lisa Lahey

I use this book, written by two Harvard professors, with all of my clients. It explains how beliefs and assumptions can keep people locked into old behavioral patterns, even when they are highly motivated to change, and lays out their methodology for helping leaders make these important shifts. I suggest reading the introduction and chapters 2, 5 and 9 which explain how to identify your own anti-change “immune system” and provide lots of real-life, helpful examples.

Is it time we talk?

Whether you are looking for coaching for yourself or leadership development programs for your organization, we’d love to hear from you.

More helpful leadership resources

Just give us a call at the location closest to you.

San Francisco | 415.762.0148
Los Angeles | 323.938.0690
New York | 646.489.4494

We look forward to connecting with you soon.

Let’s Connect