Five Leadership Lessons from last year
By Cesar Castro, Managing Partner at Escalate Group
“A fixed mindset is when people believe their basic qualities, their intelligence, their talents, their abilities, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount, and that’s that. But other people have a growth mindset. They believe that even basic talents and abilities can be developed over time through experience, mentorship and so on. And these are the people who go for it. They’re not always worried about how smart they are, how they’ll look, what a mistake will mean. They challenge themselves and grow.” Carol Dweck, at Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
The things and relationships that I mostly enjoy in life and where I had the most challenging and rewarding experiences are: 1- The love for my family, 2- My passion for endurance sports, 3- My commitment to work, and 4- Being lured into the history of civilization.
From these areas of my life I have learned many leadership lessons; the key ones from last year were the following:
1- Leadership lesson from my family
There’s an old saying that inspires me and many others to do better: “do things right and do the right things”. When you lead by example, you create a picture of what’s possible. Currently I am sharing my life with my pre-adolescent daughters and my wife; I have been re-educated in a very important concept that makes a huge difference in our life:
– Always look closely at your own behavior first and reflect on how everyone else is feeling in your presence
Parenting is a journey that many of us have embraced; it provide joy and the amazing opportunity to learn and be better persons, better parents and better leaders. Our kids learn by example. They notice our behaviors, actions, emotions and our words. They tend to observe us and copy us so our leadership consists in preaching not just words but by example.
2- Leadership lessons from an Olympian
During many years as executive leader and active endurance sports practitioner, I have learned about discipline and the importance of setting small milestones, enjoying and celebrating performance peaks – even if they hurt – and making sure to take time to recover before and after big efforts. In mid-June I learned directly from Mary Whipple, a 3-time Olympic medalist, two important principles that stick in my mind when watching #Rio2016 and reflecting about exponential mindsets and digital transformations:
– “There is not one way to row, there are many… you need to pick one, the fastest way!”
– “In order to perform, you can’t be afraid of how fast you can go”
To gain the flexibility and adaptability capabilities needed in today’s fast-paced times, we need to take time to experiment, move fast, provide more autonomy to our teams and not be afraid of the exponential growth ahead of us.
4-Leadership lessons from Work
I joined Microsoft once the Nokia acquisition was completed in April 2014; in the past two years I have seen Satya Nadella driving important changes not just in direction, but also in the culture and mindset of the company. At Microsoft, we fundamentally believe that we need a culture founded in a growth mindset. It starts with a belief that everyone can grow and develop, that potential is nurtured, not predetermined, and that anyone can change their mindset.
– “Leadership is about bringing out the best in people, where everyone brings their A-game and finds deep meaning in their work”.
We need to be willing to lean into uncertainty, take risks and move quickly when we make mistakes, recognizing that failure happens along the way to mastery, that we need to be open to the ideas of others and that the success of others does not diminish our own.
5- Leadership lessons from the Ancient Romans
The Romans were prodigious builders and their civilization produced advances in technology, culture, and architecture that can still be seen today. In early December I was thrilled to learn that I had to prepare a case about the Romans for my Harvard Executive program. My energy level crashed when reading the assigned chapters from two ancient texts – it was really hard. During my special January week in Boston, the Roman teachings led by Professor Frances Frei happened to provide a very high note and a unique lesson.
– Justice is a trade-on, not a trade-off, between severity and fidelity
A leader’s role is to make people better through our presence, commitment & support. Practicing deep devotion to our people (meaning our family, our friends, our colleagues, etc.) is very important, and to do so, we don’t have to lower our standards.
In the past, business models were created based on scarcity; now we live in a world of abundance where every business is a digital business and we are digitizing, dematerializing and democratizing the physical world. This implies a huge change on how we have to approach businesses, societies, etc., and requires us to re-align our leadership concepts. Leaders have to act as catalysts of change, find better ways to reach and manage the unique opportunities ahead, create clarity, learn how to engage with audiences and communities, empower people to make a difference and ultimately deliver success.
Learning is a mindset, more specifically, a growth mindset. It’s vital for our children but also for our personal and professional lives. “Changing the way I think generates a change of how I behave”.
I would like to learn from your leadership lessons and from your transformational leadership challenges.