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Why 'Sophisticated' Leadership Matters -- Especially Now (

Why 'Sophisticated' Leadership Matters -- Especially Now

John Hillen and Mark Nevins


Leadership Strategy

At various points in their careers, leaders will invariably hit a point where their skills, knowledge, experience and behaviors no longer seem sufficient to perform with excellence at the next level.

You may have experienced this phenomenon yourself: You’ve helped build an enterprise so big, complicated and successful that the demands of the organization seem to have outrun your leadership capability.

Paradoxically, such a realization often occurs just after your company or business has delivered great results, grown or expanded, or reached a significant milestone.

Your reward for your hard work becomes a punishment: you may no longer be the kind of leader your new organization needs.

Professional success is a double-edged sword. As managers move forward in their careers they master one new situation after another. But there eventually comes a point where the situation threatens to master the manager. We call these inflection points “stalls” and, ironically, they are indeed often a consequence of successes.

In many cases, you won’t see this stall coming—even though almost every leader will inevitably hit a stall or two in his or her career, and even though you’ve certainly seen leaders you know struggle with them.

Stalls include things such the inability to tell a story that engages and motivates people, the failure to create a high-performing team, a loss of trust and credibility with key stakeholders, and focusing precious resources of time and energy in the wrong places.

Stalls have warning signs, but