Excerpt: What Happens Now? Reinvent Yourself As A Leader Before Your Business Outruns You


Few leaders will admit it, but again and again the growth of their organizations outruns their skills. If you’re one of those leaders, you know the result: as the job grows bigger than you, you get disoriented by a world of unfamiliar challenges. You hit a wall of ineffectiveness, a stall point.

And then what? Like most leaders, you double down on the managerial and technical building blocks that have worked before. You hire new people. Or install new data systems. Or change the reporting structures. As you face new complexity, you create structure to try to master it.

But that’s a tragic flaw for many leaders: They don’t recognize that what causes them to stall is not failing to master the challenges of new complexity facing the organization. Rather, it’s failing to master the growing sophistication that confronts them in a new arena. As a leader you can engineer your way through many of the challenges of complexity, but you’ll need to reinvent yourself personally if you have lagged in developing new skills, behaviors, and mindsets for a changed organization and higher level of performance.

Without a plan to upgrade yourself as the driver of a more sophisticated vehicle, you might deploy old approaches with diminishing returns, and you will stall:

  1. When you fail to create an organizational story that delivers meaning and purpose.
  2. When you can’t align your team to deliver high performance as one.
  3. When you can’t amplify your influence among important stakeholders.
  4. When you struggle in your ability to explain and lead change.
  5. When your authority slips in the eyes of followers.
  6. When you fail to focus your time and energy to have the most impact.
  7. When you can’t develop your own leaders or prevent them from failing.

Why won’t doubling down on your old magic help you out of a stall? Because you invariably neglect the new political, personal, strategic, and interpersonal skills needed to manage yourself and others. Predictable and inevitable, your stall escalates into a crisis. And crises escalate faster the higher you go, since challenges of sophistication dwarf those of complexity at more senior levels.

What Happens Now? will help you to embrace this reality. It shows how mastering the challenges of sophistication requires you do things you may not have prioritized in the past: inspire people, nurture relationships, energize teams, groom successors, influence stakeholders. With stories from dozens of leaders, the book illustrates seven panic-producing stalls every leader is almost certain to hit; helps you search inside yourself to see why you are experiencing them; and gives you specific tools to jump-start your leadership engine.  

What Happens Now? doesn’t merely dwell on leadership theory and philosophy. As experienced troubleshooters for leaders of all kinds, from CEOs to startups, from Fortune companies to the military and not-for-profits, authors John Hillen and Mark Nevins focus on the most menacing issue they see in organizations every day: leaders who try to solve challenges solely by muscling through new complexity with reorganizations, process mapping, data analytics, new reports and structures, and the like. The result? Organizational wreckage.

Will this be your fate? Can you instead turn game-stopping stalls into personal growth and organization success? Can you struggle through the realization that you’re the cause and launch the next phase of your lifelong leadership journey? Can you see the warning signs and you reinvent yourself to become a master of sophisticated leadership challenges? Hillen and Nevins show you how. If the dozens of leaders they profile can overcome these stalls, so can you.

This is an excerpt from the book, “What Happens Now? Reinvent Yourself As A Leader Before Your Business Outruns You” by John Hillen and Mark Nevins. 

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