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Is Climbing the Corporate Ladder Still a Thing?

by Mariann McDonagh       • October 22, 2020

Thoughts on erwin Insights Day No. 2 Keynote

If you didn’t watch New York Times Best-Selling Author Keith Ferrazzi’s keynote from erwin Insights 2020, what are you waiting for?

I was blown away by Keith’s perspective on “Leading Without Authority” and it got me thinking about my own career, our employees here at erwin, work as we knew it, and work as we’ll know it in a post-COVID world.

Here are my takeaways from Keith’s session from erwin Insights Day No. 2 called “Leadership in Times of Radical Change”:

erwin Insights Leadership in Challenging Times - free access

  1. Don’t Ask for Permission

Keith asked, “How do you become transformational … how do you find the courage to say what’s possible to be that tipping point your organization needs?” The idea of having a vision within the organization and not waiting for the organization to tell you what to do really resonated with me.

So many people see things that need to be done but just sit there waiting – waiting for someone to tell them what they should do. Don’t wait. If needed, ask for forgiveness not permission to do the things that need to be done to create the type of organization you want work for.

  1. Be Your Authentic Self

We all know people who have two personalities – their work face/persona and the moment they leave the office (or log off Zoom) they become their true self. There’s an old-school notion of keeping your personal and professional lives separate. Fortunately, those days have changed.

Today, you need to bring your whole self to work. As employers, we need to give employees the space to be who are they are. And as leaders, it’s ok to be vulnerable – it’s what makes people want to follow you. Our personal lives make us who we are as people and employees, the good and the bad. It’s ok to be vulnerable at work – it builds empathy and trust in the workplace.

  1. Servant Leadership

Being a leader is multifaceted. Servant leadership flips the organizational hierarchy on its head. It puts the employees first – or at the top of the pyramid – and the executives at the bottom.

A book called “The Customer Comes Second” by Hal Rosenbluth focuses on this idea of servant leadership and the principle holds true (if not truer) today – if you put your employees first it will improve morale, performance and ultimately your bottom line.

  1. You’re the CEO of Your Own Career

As Keith points out, leadership has nothing to do with titles. Your career is in your hands, so ask yourself: Am I working with the right people? Is this job good for me right now?

Once you answer those two questions, you can make decisions that best suit you. Additionally, you must be able to cocreate/collaborate. I’ve always paid attention to the people asking the smart questions – and sought out like-minded people to create the type of organization that I envisioned and wanted to be a part of.

Going Forward (Not Back) to Work

What will work life look like in a post-COVID world? Keith says that we shouldn’t think about “going back to work” but rather “going forward to work.”

I love this concept, and I think it’s fair to say that everything has changed and will continue to evolve for quite some time. As more employees work from home or re-evaluate their careers, I believe organizations will become flatter. Therefore, climbing the corporate ladder will become a thing of the past.

Keith’s latest book is “Leading Without Authority: How the New Power of Co-Elevation Can Break Down Silos, Transform Teams, and Reinvent Collaboration.”

You can watch Keith’s presentation as well as all other erwin Insights 2020 sessions on demand.

erwin Insights 2020

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  • Bill Eckard
    What an excellent message Marianne. It resonated with me as I’m sure it will with many.

  • Peter
    Excellent comments by Keith. I believe in his concepts.

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