This month we sat down with our friend and thought partner, Jeremy Hunter, to explore ways leaders develop themselves while retaining their humanity in the face of monumental change in the workplace.
Jeremy Hunter, PhD is the Founding Director of the Executive Mind Leadership Institute as well as Associate Professor of Practice at the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University. He creates and teaches The Executive Mind, a series of demanding and transformative executive education programs. They are dedicated to Drucker’s assertion that “You cannot manage other people unless you manage yourself first.” He also co-leads the Leading Mindfully Executive Education program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.
Jeremy balances a full portfolio of teaching, writing, speaking and consulting with the most important role, being a new dad! He has designed and led leadership development programs for Fortune 200 and Fortune 50 organizations in aerospace, banking, research, finance, accounting, the arts and civic non-profits.
S. Benjamins: Jeremy, it has been some time since we caught up with you! What are you up to in 2016?
Jeremy Hunter: It has been an exciting year so far! More leaders are realizing that to positively face all the demands and distractions coming at them, they must learn new skills. They are learning to focus better and help their teams stay focused. They are learning to better manage their reactions to all the “incoming” coming their way. Executives handle challenges and take on more work than ever while also wanting to maintain a healthy personal and family life.
As Founding Director of the new Executive Mind Leadership Institute, I am focused on the practical inner development of executives. It is the first of its kind on the West Coast and builds on the Drucker School’s leadership position of helping executives learn skills to up their game to be more productive while also enjoying greater well-being. The institute is supported by a team of Drucker faculty who believe in the power of human development for organizational success. Our goal is to cultivate the inner skills of executives and offer public and niche programs to help them thrive in an increasingly arduous environment.
SB: What do you hope the Executive Mind Leadership Institute will provide?
JH: The Executive Mind Leadership Institute is built on idea that leaders have to cultivate their minds in a different way to flourish in this turbulent environment. I have been teaching executives for 13 years and at the core of that is something called mindfulness, which is now recognized as a powerful solution for facing an unrelenting and chaotic business environment. Many talented leaders work hard but would like more tools to meet demands in this pace of change and more effectively address the contemporary business environment.
SB: In regards to your consulting, what do you think makes clients call you for help?
JH: A few things come to mind. First, leaders now realize that their quality of self-awareness impacts the success of their organizations. To be effective now, they have to be more than just skilled at the technical aspects of what they do. They also want to increase their capacity to stay focused in a distracting environment, or approach challenges in fresh ways to be more competitive. They also know how important it is to create a culture that attracts and keeps talent. Managing is no longer just about the kind of work people do, but it is about the “why and how” as well.
Secondly, forward-thinking leaders see the nature of work is changing. Good work now demands the ability to connect to one another in more sophisticated ways. Better solutions arise from better connections with one another. My last client was a highly technical organization that understood through enhancing their ability to have higher-value conversations they gain a competitive advantage. The work we did improved the tenor and quality of their meetings which resulted in clearer communication and forward-moving action.
Lastly, work has become more stressful and firms want useful ways to deal with it. I hear so many people describe their work by using war metaphors. They walked in the office braced for battle and already exhausted.
SB: Are you seeing changes in leadership development?
JH: Yes, and part of that is the new generation of leadership. When I first started this work 13+ years ago it was not a foregone conclusion that leaders had develop themselves internally to be effective externally. Now, we know that research supports the idea that healthy leaders who understand and manage themselves lead more effectively.
SB: We see in our search work that Hiring Managers want a long list of skills; however, more place equal importance on “fit”. Are your clients doing this?
JH: Yes, it’s the “do they play well with others” question. To answer the “fit” question, you need a set of tools that give employees the opportunity to display strengths and improve weaknesses. A “diamond in the rough” candidate can survive and thrive with a strong set of tools to help them develop. Survival is about continually adapting to change, not about perfection.
I’d personally love to see companies replace their fit assessments with a real life situation. Instead of measuring someone’s ability to be flexible via an assessment, take them to lunch and have the waiter mess up their order. Then you would really see how they handle situations that require flexibility!
SB: Between being a new father, teaching, consulting, writing and the Institute how do you keep all the balls in the air?
JH: I have to practice what I preach! Every morning I meditate for 40 minutes to an hour. It is a way for me to set the tone of the day and let things unfold more calmly. I also take vacations where I get to decidedly disconnect from work.
SB: I love that. What have you learned about yourself this past year?
JH: Beyond practicing what I preach, I have learned to take paths that challenge me. It allows me to actively practice adapting and staying in the moment with the challenge. We all go through difficulties and many of us prefer to take the path most easily traveled, but I have found taking the path outside comfort zones offers better solutions in the end.
We can thrive and have a high quality of life and performance, but it does take work. Right now we live in a world where people think the answer to productivity is technology. The root of productivity is not technology. Productivity happens because people develop capacities between and within themselves to perform better.
Our final considerations. . .
Just as medicine is shifting from reactive treatments to pro-active wellness, more organizations are shifting to well-being at work. Jeremy has worked with enlightened CEO’s who are now seeing that building a healthy culture starts with the leader. Those that self reflect know how to shift attention and get better results.
The conversation at the leadership table is changing. When it is more human and honest – the research shows better results. The human agenda is now more centered than ever on values, leadership, talent management, motivation and learning. This is a huge sign that leading indicators for success start with leaders who understand what matters from the inside out.