Mobius Monthly Newsletter

May 2019

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Dear Friends,

Welcome to the May newsletter where we share our top recommendations for what to read, watch and listen to in the field of transformational leadership and organizational change. This month we showcase scholarship from several of our Mobius Senior Experts.  We bring to your attention pieces that examine how to navigate situations beyond your span of control and understand how complex systems work.  We also explore the value in adopting a relational lens in building leadership capacity. In addition, we are delighted to share this month’s special Keynote video release of Professor Thomas DeLong on the perils of high achievement. 

For everyone planning on being with us this year at the Next Practice Institute, in December, there’s just one week left to register in time to receive the Early Bird discount. Click here for details of the week’s full program including the list of immersive learning tracks, keynote talks, panel discussions and week-long workshops.  

Warmest best, 

Chief Executive Officer,  Mobius Executive Leadership 


The Elephant in the Room

“Difficult people” are not innately mad or bad – it’s our relationships with each other that brings out the best and worst of in each of us

Throughout her career Diana McLain Smith has focused on teams, conflict and how relationships make or break leaders. Author of several important books and articles, co-author of the seminal text, Action Science, with Chris Argyris and Bob Putnam, and a Mobius Senior Expert, we are delighted to confirm Diana joins us at this year’s Next Practice Institute in December as a keynote speaker.  She will share her latest thinking on how we can “put our differences to work” in an increasingly polarized world. In this month’s newsletter, we share an excerpt published in the archives of the Mobius Strip from Diana’s incredibly important exploration of these topics in her book, The Elephant in the Room. Here she brings to life the individual versus the relational perspective in understanding the dynamics between leaders and explains why, when faced with a complex challenge, we must shift to a relational view. The article delves into fascinating research that shows how relationships amplify or dampen our innate dispositional qualities and thus just how entwined we are with those around us. Included in this excerpt is an overview on Action Mapping (from organizational expert Grady McGonagill and Mobius Chief Thought Leader Erica Ariel Fox), one of the essential tools Diana applies in The Elephant in the Room: How Relationships Make or Break the Success of Leaders and Organizations.

The Leader's Paradox: navigating with less control

“This rather unhelpful idea of ‘being in control’ pervades our culture, our organizations, and most of our lives”

Dr. Srinivasan Pillay’s latest article, written with Jim Selman, sets out six approaches to deal with the reality that we have substantially less control over other people and circumstances than we believe. When we rely on exerting control as the basis for our confidence to lead others on the path forward, we reduce our true capacity for creating positive outcomes. We are wasting valuable brain power on resisting and reacting rather than expanding our innate tolerance for what is in fact, beyond our total control. This latest piece from Dr. Srinivasan Pillay sets out the following guidelines and practices to help us put these into action: 1. Accept you are in less control than you think 2. Train your unconscious to discover the insights that help you most 3. Seek internal congruence 4. Favor possibilities over predictions based on the past 5. Reappraise your relationship with fear 6. Chose compassion over goal setting. Dr. Srinivasan Pillay is a neuroscientist, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, the author of several books including Your Brain and Business: The Neuroscience of Great Leaders,the CEO of NeuroBusiness Group, and a Mobius Senior Expert. Visit the Next Practice Resources section of the website to watch his 2016 Keynote address at the Next Practice Institute.

How to apply systems thinking

Zooming out helps us to examine the broadest range of elements that enable or disable a positive outcome

What do we mean when we talk about systems thinking? In the January edition of the newsletter we promised to share “bite-sized” tutorials and explorations into what exactly we mean by systems thinking. Understanding how to read and intervene effectively in any system – whether that’s an organization, a natural habitat, or a complex challenge is imperative for leaders to understand true cause and effect and to avoid leaving a trail of unintended negative consequences in their wake. The January video deconstructed the concept of “love” to illustrate elements of a system. This month we share a 5-minute video that takes the issue of obesity to draw out the way in which we can understand the systemic forces at work and become more adept at influencing that system for positive outcomes. The video is an excellent tool for coaches and leaders alike in thinking through complex challenges and in showing those around us how we might adopt a fresh approach to thorny challenges (i.e., with an understanding of how systems operate.)  

Special release: Keynote Series

What Matters Most: The Perils of High Achievement

Throughout 2019 we will release keynote talks representing emerging voices, distinguished thought leaders and pioneering experts in the field of transformational leadership who inspire and advance our learning. Each of these talks was recorded at last year’s Next Practice Institute. In May we released “What Matters Most: The Perils of High Achievement” from Senior Fellow at the Harvard Business School, Thomas DeLong, who also serves as a Mobius Senior Expert. In this keynote address Professor DeLong takes us on a tour through the highlights of his many years of research into high-need-for-achievement professionals, many of whom struggle with everything demanded of them in today’s complex world. He shares the key characteristics of driven achievers and the essential dilemmas they face – such as the ever-present sense of guilt and anxiety over all the things they fail to get done.  He also offers his observations of the most common cognitive distortions that plague high achievers. He continues with a window into the leadership courses he has taught for many years at the Harvard Business School with students and executives from around the world, focusing on conveying three essential principles to becoming an authentic, effective and inspiring leader.


Please visit our website for the calendar of upcoming learning events and other professional development opportunities. 

The 2019 Next Practice Institute takes place outside of Boston December 8-13. Registration is now OPEN. Sign up before May 31 to receive the Early Bird Discount. 

Please contact our editor, Nathalie Hourihan, if you’d like to suggest a topic or materials for future editions of the newsletter. 

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