Purpose is not what a group does. It’s why they do it. In her new book, Harvard Business School professor Linda Hill explains how your company can become purpose-driven–and why it matters.

Linda Hill, the Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, is a champion of leadership through empowerment. Her work often focuses on leaders who’ve excelled by enabling others to do the doing.

In other words, if you seek professorial wisdom stressing vocal displays of assertiveness are not necessarily leadership, Hill is the professor for you. Her work on Nelson Mandela’s leadership style highlights her research-based beliefs that in the business world, too, there are countless benefits to viewing leadership as a collective activity. So do her insights on the stealth leaders within organizations–those unheralded members of the rank-in-file who take charge of key initiatives.

Hill’s latest book, Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation, makes a fascinating argument that Hill has made before: Namely, that to lead innovation, you should not view leadership as a take-charge, bull-by-the-horn-grabbing activity.

Instead, your job should be to create, populate, and inspire a flexible ecosystem, in which employees feel comfortable proposing radical ideas and challenging long-held corporate beliefs.

Find the Strengths of Your Culture

Coauthored with Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove, and Kent Lineback, the book draws on examples from large entities such as Volkswagen, Google, eBay, and Pixar. Many of its key takeaways, however, are replicable for smaller organizations. Especially smaller organizations who are looking to manage through change and foster more innovative cultures.

For example, there’s a change-management myth that tends to inflate the roles of leaders. The myth generally involves an uber-leader imported from another company, arriving and making wholesale changes which produce demonstrable wins in the first 100 days.

But that type of top-down approach isn’t the best way to motivate employees to do what innovation requires. The best way, note Hill and her coauthors, is to tap into emotions those employees already feel.

 

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