Author: Ginny O’Brien
The following interview was conducted by: NORM GOLDMAN: Editor of Bookpleasures. CLICK TO VIEW Norm Goldman's Reviews
To read Norm's Review of Coaching Yourself To Leadership: Five Key Strategies for Becoming an Integrated Leader CLICK HERE
Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest, Ginny O'Brien, author of Coaching Yourself To Leadership: Five Key Strategies for Becoming an Integrated Leader.
Good day Ginny and thank you for agreeing to participate in our interview.
Norm: Ginny, please tell our readers a little bit about your personal and professional background.
Ginny: I’m an executive and corporate coach, and have been coaching for about eight years. I specialize in leadership development, with a particular specialty in women’s leadership. I have an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s in communication. I love my work and know that I’m doing exactly what I should be doing! In addition to Coaching Yourself to Leadership, I’ve also written two other books which were published by John Wiley: Success on Your Own Terms: Tales of Extraordinary, Ordinary Business Women, which examined women’s definitions of success and strategies that women used to succeed in corporate America, and The Fast Forward MBA in Business, which is a quick reference guide to the information and knowledge one needs in business.
Norm: What is the Columbia Consultancy?
Ginny: It’s a coaching and consulting company specializing in leadership development that I founded in 1998. We’re located in Marblehead, Massachusetts.
Norm: Why do you think your book is important at this time? How has the feedback been so far?
Ginny: It’s time for us to start thinking about leadership in a new way. Historically, leadership has been defined from a male point of view, which makes sense since men were the original leaders in the business world. When women entered the business world they had to adapt to male styles of doing business. Then as women progressed, researchers starting writing on the ways in which women led differently. For the last 15 years, the focus as been on those differences. I think it’s time to recognize that the most effective leaders use a combination of masculine and feminine styles. So I’ve coined the term “integrated leader” and hope that the book will enable us to have more conversations about how to help leaders integrate their skills and styles to become more effective. So far, all the feedback that I’ve gotten has been good. I recently presented my material at the International Coach Federation’s Annual conference, which is the biggest coaching conference in the world. There were 250 executive coaches in my workshop, both men and women, and the feedback was terrific. And my books at the conference sold out!
Norm: What makes an ideal leader and what is meant by an "authentic" leader.
Ginny: When I speak of an authentic leader, I’m talking about someone who leads by their core values, who lives and works according to well defined principles that are important to that individual. An authentic leader knows herself well, knows her strengths and weaknesses, and what is most important to her. She honors her core values and uses them to guide her. This self-awareness enables one to operate with self-confidence and contributes to the “presence” of leadership. One of the things that I’ve learned along the way is that the more authentic a leader is the more successful that person will be.
Norm: Do you believe that business schools today sufficiently prepare their students to become effective leaders?
Ginny: I’ll base my answer on what I’ve observed in the working world – we need a lot more effective leaders. We need schools that teach leadership from an integrated perspective, meaning that issues such as values, ethics, responsibility to employees, customers and the community at large are considered just as important as learning finance and strategy. We need schools that teach psychology, human development and communication skills so that leaders have a better understanding of how to manage a broad range of people at different stages of development. There are, however, limitations on what schools can teach. They can’t teach people how to be passionate about their work, how to be visionary, how to be committed to success. There are some aspects of leadership that can’t be taught.
Norm: What do you think about the television shows that are hosted by Martha Stewart and Donald Trump as to their approaches pertaining to leadership qualities?
Ginny: Well, I must confess I’m an Apprentice junky. I also watch Survivor. I find it fascinating to see what happens to different groups as they form, the energy that’s created and the choices that people make. Even though these shows are heavily edited, they provide insight into how people make decisions and what influences them. They also enable the viewer to witness different values: some participants will do anything to win; others remain guided by their core values and principles even though there’s a lot of money at stake. To me, these shows also reveal how important relationships and alliances are — you can’t succeed without them. But how you go about forming them and how faithful you are to them reveals a lot about character and leadership. So, I don’t watch the show to try to define the kind of leadership that either Donald or Martha are looking for; however, I do see a difference in the way Donald and Martha themselves lead, which is interesting from a gender perspective. For example, with his finger pointing, Donald says, “You’re fired!” in an abrupt and forceful way. Martha extends her hand to shake the hand of the person being fired and says something like, “You’ll have to go.” Then, she sits down and writes a hand-written note, noting something the person did well and also explaining why he or she is being let go.
Norm: If you had to choose 3 of the most effective business leaders today, which ones would be your choices and why?
Ginny: Well, this is a hard one because I’m sure there are many effective business leaders out there, but I haven’t had the opportunity to observe them in action. I have a lot of respect for Oprah as a business person. She is one of the most powerful and influential people in the world and she’s black and she’s a woman. She’s strikes me as authentic and she obviously surrounds herself with smart people. She grew her business and branched out from the broadcasting world to print media and now has one of the most successful magazines around. I think it’s circulation is bigger than it’s three biggest competitors combined. Her work is about making things better for others by getting her own message out. She’s branded herself, built an empire, made a fortune, and made a lot of people’s lives better.
Two other leaders who impressed me are no longer the CEOs of their companies. I became familiar with the quality of their leadership when I was doing my research for Success on Our Own Terms back in 1998. One is Michael Cook of Deloitte & Touche, who recognized that women were leaving the firm just when they should have been making partner. He created a Woman’s Initiative and drove the cultural changes in his firm. He was able to see something wrong, willing to unearth the source of the problem, and took steps to change the system. The firm now stands as a model for women’s initiatives. It takes strong leadership to steer an organization through cultural change.
The other ex-CEO is Lew Platt of Hewlett Packard, who was the CEO when I was doing my research. At that time, HP represented a true learning organization. People I interviewed loved the company and it’s core values. People felt like family even in a large organization and worked their most of their lives. Turn over was low. People trusted each other. That level of trust and confidence flows down from the top. Unfortunately, all of that fell apart under Carly Fiorina, who didn’t understand the culture and honor its long-standing values.
Norm: What are the temptations of leadership?
Ginny: To begin to believe the following: you know more than others and must be right; you’re more important than the people who work for you; you have a winning style so you should surround yourself with people of a similar style; you deserve enormous perks and ridiculous amounts of money. Essentially, to lose humility.
Norm: Do you set yourself daily, weekly, yearly goals? If so, what are some of your goals?
Ginny: Absolutely. My style is a very goal oriented one, more so than other behavioral styles. For me, it’s hard to imagine how you can succeed if you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish. Goals are what drive you forward. You might not reach a goal, but the goal itself puts you into action. So, I always use daily, weekly and yearly goals to guide me — even in personal, pleasurable things. The sense of accomplishing my goals makes me feel good. This past year, I met my goal of getting my book published and making some key business alliances. In 2006, I have a goal of broadening my geographic range and finding clients in Canada and Europe.
Norm: What do you like about your profession and what do you dislike?
Ginny: I love the ability to assist people in developing themselves. It gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. I know that right now this is the job I’m supposed to be doing. I feel very connected to my clients. Coaching offers people the support they need to take themselves to the next level of leadership. Having a safe learning space is enormously important for people’s development. Honestly, I don’t know that there is anything I dislike about my work. I set out with a goal to have a portfolio of services that fulfills different parts of myself and that’s what I have. I have close relationships with my coaching clients and have tremendous one-on-one rapport. I conduct workshops and speak in public which enables me to be out there and have my voice heard and engage with a larger group of people. And I write which enables me to use my intellect in a different way and share my ideas and knowledge with an even larger audience.
Norm: Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?
Ginny: I think we’ve covered a fair amount of ground for now. If you interview me again, I’m sure I’ll have some more ideas to share! Thanks for this opportunity.
Good luck with your book and all of your future endeavors.