CEO of Linkage, Inc.
The Purposeful Leadership Advantage
I interviewed Jennifer McCollum, the first female CEO of Linkage, Inc! The mission of Linkage is to “Change the Face of Leadership!” Our conversation streamed on Keep Leading LIVE!™ via YouTube and Facebook. We discussed “The Purposeful Leadership Advantage.”
Keep Leading LIVE!™ (39 Minutes)
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Jennifer McCollum is CEO of Linkage, Inc., where she oversees the strategic direction and global operations of the Boston, MA-based leadership development firm. With a mission to “Change the Face of Leadership,” Linkage has dedicated 30 years to improving leadership effectiveness and equity in hundreds of organizations globally. Linkage provides solutions to Accelerate Purposeful Leadership, Advance Women Leaders, and Create Cultures of Inclusion, using assessments, training, coaching, consulting, and conferences.
For decades, Linkage has studied what the best leaders do, and amassed assessment data from one million leaders to surface the Purposeful Leadership model. Our research proves that leaders who generate the best results align their purpose to the organizational direction, and fulfill five specific commitments: to inspire, engage, innovate, achieve, and become. In 2019, Linkage isolated specific inclusive leadership behaviors and found they correlate perfectly to Purposeful Leadership, indicating inclusion is a proxy for effective leadership. Additionally, for more than 20 years, Linkage has addressed the challenge of advancing women leaders, surfacing specific hurdles that women face and competencies to overcome them. Linkage’s approach is captured in two books: Become: The Five Commitments of Purposeful Leadership and Mastering Your Inner Critic and 7 Other High Hurdles to Advancement.
Jennifer has 20 years of experience in building and managing businesses in the leadership space. Before Linkage, she spent a decade growing leadership businesses at Korn Ferry and Corporate Executive Board (CEB), now Gartner. She is an avid tennis player and skier and resides in the Washington, DC area with her husband and three children.
Harry Kraemer’s advice has been at the forefront of my mind over and over like a mantra during this crisis. He is the former CEO of Baxter and now a PE founder and “best MBA professor in NA” from Kellogg School (Bia school at Northwestern). He said EXPECT a crisis, and when it’s here, you need to “Do the right thing and do your best.” What does that look like?
- Tell people what you know.
- Tell people what you don’t know.
- Commit to getting back to them when you know.
That builds trust & vulnerability!
Full Episode Transcripts and Detailed Guest Information
Keep Leading LIVE (Live Recordings of the Keep Leading!® Podcast)
Jen’s latest blog: In Uncertain Times, Your Teams Need You: Double Down on the Commitments of Purposeful Leadership®: https://www.linkageinc.com/leadership-insights/in-uncertain-times-your-teams-need-you-double-down-on-the-commitments-of-purposeful-leadership/
Alan Mulally & Jennifer webinar recording from April 2020: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/6371122732543536911
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Jennifer speaking clip:
The key to sustainable leadership lies in the ability to thrive during uncertainty, ambiguity, and change. Grand Heron International brings you the Coaching Assistance Program, giving your employees on-demand coaching to manage through a challenging situation and arrive at a solution. Visit GrandHeronInternational.Ca/Podcast to learn more.
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Welcome to the Keep Leading!® Podcast, the podcast dedicated to promoting leadership development and sharing leadership insights. Here’s your host, The Leadership Excelerator®, Eddie Turner.
Well, well we are officially live and I’m always so excited when this day happens. Yes, two thumbs up, Jennifer. It’s so good to see you.All right. Well, hello, everyone! Those of you who are joining us, will join us on Facebook and YouTube, welcome to Keep Leading Live, the video version of the Keep Leading!® Podcast. Keep Leading Live and the Keep Leading!® Podcast are dedicated to leadership development and insights. I’m your host Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator®. I work with leaders to accelerate performance and drive impact through the power of professional speaking, facilitation, and coaching.
Today, we are live streaming on YouTube and Facebook as we do every Monday. Normally, it’s at 1:10 Central Time. Today, we’re delayed an hour but I delayed the show five hours to get on this busy CEO’s calendar. It was extremely difficult and I’m super thrilled to have Jennifer McCollum joining me. And we want you to know I always have to make my adjustments here.
Let me tell you a small story. I looked at the website and here’s what I saw. Our mission is to change the face of leadership. When I saw those words on the site of Linkage, I was beaming. It is a powerful yet simple message and it’s something I deeply believe in and it’s the reason that the Keep Leading!® Podcast and the Keep Leading Live exist. So, I had to meet and introduce myself to the CEO of this amazing organization and that is Ms. Jennifer McCollum.
Let me tell you a little bit about Jennifer McCollum. She is the first female CEO of Linkage Incorporated where she oversees the strategic direction and global operations of the Boston, Massachusetts-based leadership development firm. With a mission to change the face of leadership, Linkage has dedicated 30 years to improving leadership effectiveness and quality in hundreds of organizations globally. For decades, Linkage has studied what the best leaders do and amassed assessment data from one million leaders to service the purposeful leadership model and I find that quite impressive.
So, officially, let me say, welcome, Jennifer McCollum to the Keep Leading!® Podcast and Keep Leading Live stream.
I love that. I love what you’re saying. I love the fact that you actually let me back in. You are a professional interviewer. It’s a beauty. I think that’s great, the intentionality behind what you’re doing in the depth.So, I want to hear more about that but I also want to just say welcome to those who’ve joined us. We have several that have joined us from Facebook and on YouTube. Let us know you’re here. Say hello. Tell us who you are, where you’re from and if you have a question.
If you’re not already following Jennifer McCollum, follow her on social media. She’s on LinkedIn. And follow Linkage.
So, yes, go ahead and continue, Jennifer, please.
No problem. So, as I said, we’ve been studying about a million leadership data points which, again, can get a little nerdy for a moment. We looked at about a hundred thousand leaders that we’ve been working with across the last couple of decades. And over the last five or six years, we amassed all of our data and we looked really specifically at what was surfacing to answer a really specific question and that is what is it that the very best leaders do. So, we looked at that data, we looked at our experience, we looked at academic literature, and we looked at practitioners in the field and we pulled all that together through a really robust research effort about five years ago and we surfaced what’s called the Purposeful Leadership Model. And I’ll tell you two things about that.First, the best of our leaders are very grounded in their personal why – what is their personal purpose. And they’re able to align that to the organizational vision or organizational strategy. That’s number one.
The second thing we learned was that the very best leaders make five very specific commitments, whether or not they know they’re doing that, and these are the very commitments that their stakeholders expect of them. and I’m going to rattle them off and then we can talk about them further, if you’d like.
And Become is that inner path to leadership. It’s that self-awareness that I have as a leader, that you have as a leader, the courage, the conviction, and the commitment to get better as a leader every day.So, those are the five commitments that we can measure, we can develop. There’s a whole lot of complexity underneath the commitments, the competencies and the skills that leaders can develop to get better, but one thing that we strongly believe at Linkage is that you need to be self-aware enough. And sometimes it’s hard. You need feedback from others, you need assessment data, you need a coach to help you realize where are your strengths and maybe where are your blind spots.
Yes, I like that. And interesting that what you said there, understanding your personal why. So, thank you for sharing that in this nice list of five commitments that we need to be aware of.And I want to also acknowledge just briefly, as we see here tuning in, I have a comment from Evan Sanders. He says he’s just learning. So, he appreciates what you said there. So, welcome, Evan. Thank you for letting us know that you’re here. Thank you for giving your feedback.
We welcome others to do the same and to share your feedback with Jennifer, share your questions, and certainly follow Jennifer on social media.
Go ahead, Jennifer.
Yeah, let me give Evan a little thumbs up because, again, the beauty of the Purposeful Leadership Framework is that it’s very simple, it’s very elegant, and it’s also very actionable. So, let me just talk to Evan for a moment.When we look at those five commitments, the first being Inspire, Inspire is about a leader’s ability to set an aspirational goal and to rally people around that goal. It doesn’t matter what level of leader you are, we all have goals and we all can inspire related to those goals.
The second one is Engage and this one is really important, especially in a crisis like we’re in now. Engage is about the leader’s ability to bring everybody together and feel a sense of belonging and a sense of “This is what I can do to support that goal and I feel like I’m heard and I feel like the leader is bringing me in.”
Innovate is about change – what do you need to do to shift and evolve toward that aspirational goal, either at the big blue-sky level or even at the simple process efficiency level.
And Achieve is really important. It’s about achieving the goals but not through you alone. It’s about the structure and the process so that the team can achieve the goal together
And, finally, Become. Again, Become is probably the hardest one because it’s about me, it’s about my self-awareness as a leader.
No. Hey, we’re live, man. This is good.So, we talked a little bit about the data we’ve been gathering on leaders writ large across the last 30 years. Linkage is one of the only companies in the world that has been studying the advancement of women for 25 years and we’ve run Women in Leadership Institute for 21 of those years. This is our book called Mastering Your Inner Critic and Seven Other High Hurdles to Advancement. The other reason I loved joining Linkage was because of this research that we’ve done, which is around women and now we’re doing a lot more on inclusion. So, we’ve identified very specific hurdles to women’s advancement that are different than the traditional path men have taken to leadership and what are the competencies that will help women overcome those hurdles. And just like our broader leadership work, we have assessments and development and coaching and consulting and a big Institute to support the advancement of women leaders. And we’ve learned a lot about that. It’s not just about helping women individually. It’s about helping the organization around the women to ensure that there’s the culture and the talent systems and the executive commitment required to advance women. And now we’re pointing that same work toward other underrepresented populations as well.
This podcast is sponsored by Eddie Turner LLC. Organizations who need to accelerate the development of their leaders call Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator®. Eddie works with leaders to accelerate performance and drive impact. Call Eddie Turner to help your leaders one on one as their coach or to inspire them as a group through the power of facilitation or a keynote address. Visit EddieTurnerLLC.com to learn more.
This is Chester Elton, the Apostle of Appreciation, and you’re listening to the Keep Leading!® Podcast with the one, the only Eddie Turner.
All right. So, appreciate the folks who’ve tuned in live. We are glad to have a couple of gentlemen who are willing to jump on the line. Evan is an emerging leader who’s a coach and Linus also, like I said, he’s a leader. So, we’d love to have anyone else who’s listening to us live tell us that you’re here, ask a question of Jennifer or give us feedback, as we’ve already received.What I’d like to do now is pause. We’re having a great conversation with Jennifer McCollum, the first CEO of Linkage Incorporated. And I’d like to just take a quick pause and acknowledge a few individuals that help make the Keep Leading!® Podcast and the Keep Leading Live stream possible.
The first I’d like to acknowledge is going to be Grand Heron. Grand Heron is one of my paid sponsors, Grand Heron International. The key to sustainable leadership lies in the ability to thrive during uncertainty, ambiguity, and change, giving your employees on-demand coaching to manage through a challenging situation and arrive at a solution. Visit GrandHeronInternational.Ca/Podcast to learn more. So, they are a tremendous supporter. I appreciate their paid ad.
And then I have another supporter of the podcast that I would like to acknowledge. I’m sorry for the delay in the transitioning here. The next supporter that we’d like to acknowledge, the one that I’m also pretty excited about. Many folks enjoy Goodreads, the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations. Their mission is to help people find and share books they love. Well, now, there’s Goodpods, the social app brought to you by the former MSNBC host of Your Business JJ Ramberg and her brother Ken. Their mission is to help people find and share podcasts they love. Visit Goodpods.com to learn more. I am a big fan of this app and on their site you get a chance to read more about them and you can download the app. Goodpods.com.
And then my final one that I would like to acknowledge, not a paid sponsor, but certainly someone who I am excited to have with me today on the show. So, I want to tell you that at Linkage, we believe that leaders are not born. They are made from their experiences. Leaders are the driving force behind your most important asset, your people. Everyone, regardless of their role, can continually develop into a more effective leader. Visit LinkageInc.com to learn more.
All right. So, that’s all for our ads.
Yes, it’s new and it’s pretty cool. And, as we said there, it’s just like Goodreads which a lot of people seem to really enjoy.So, Jennifer, you said earlier in your research that you all discover what the most effective leaders do. If a leader is listening to our discussion right now, what’s one thing you’d like for them to be able to implement right away.
I think I’d actually like to start to pivot to the role that inclusion plays in leadership effectiveness. And the reason I feel like it’s so important to talk about that right now is because in a world where a lot of companies have had to lay off staff, reduce pay, they’re making dramatic pivots in business strategy, the role of inclusion becomes really critical. And let me talk about inclusion as it relates to purposeful leadership. So, we already talked about the five commitments of purposeful leadership. We did some really important work last year. Everybody’s been talking about inclusion for the last 5-10 years, the role of diversity and inclusion. We really sought to codify what does it actually mean and how do you if you are inclusive.And so, to answer your question specifically, the role of inclusion, and I’ll give you some examples of what it actually looks like and how we measure it, are leaders showing empathy, are they showing concern for others, are they creating an environment where you can openly discuss and learn from your failures or your obstacles and your challenges. If you think about the work environment right now, those should be conversations we’re having every single day. Does the leader encourage the culture where people can speak up regardless of their experience or regardless of their background? So, there are a couple of the things that we measure when it comes to inclusive leadership.
Here’s the cool thing that we did last year. Of our Purposeful Leadership Assessment, there about 50 or so items that we test across all five commitments to offer a leader a snapshot into where they’re strong and where they have potential to grow. We took just the specific items that directly impacted inclusive leadership, so three or four of the ones I just spouted out to you. And there were 16 of them. And we took 16 of them and we correlated them to the whole 50+ that we measure. And what we learned is if all you do is measure those 16 items, you can predict how effective that leader is. Without getting too deep into the data, it correlates at a 0.92 which means basically if you’re an inclusive leader, you are an effective leader.
So, my message today is a lot of times when you’re in a crisis, you kind of forget about those things like “Let’s not talk about advancing women and other underrepresented populations. Let’s not talk about inclusion. We got to get this business running.” Well, the truth is you can’t get the business running if you’re not an inclusive leader.
Thank You, Jennifer.And it looks like Faustina is listening to you. She says that is great. She is very optimistic. Thank you for weighing in, Faustina. And if you’re just joining us, listening to Jennifer McCollum, please let us know where you are from, say hello and let us know if you have a question.
We do have one question that comes from Rosemary Winbush. She says “Thanks for your insight on leaders. Is there a formal leadership track at Linkage to reproduce leaders?”
Thank you for answering that question. And thank you, Rosemary, again for your question.Jennifer, I saw something that you wrote about in real leaders and that was just in March and, essentially, it revolves around what we’re dealing with right now. And so, you and 66 other CEOs were asked about your view on how you’re surviving, how you’re thriving. So, in your organization I don’t want to end this conversation without asking for those who are listening, what advice do you have from the top that leaders should be thinking about during this time to survive this crisis.
Yeah, it’s so important and I think it’s safe to say that all of us who are leaders, and all of us are leaders and what you’re talking about is leadership from the “top”, at the executive ranks, we’re really concerned about a couple things. One, and I think we did pretty well here, one was looking internally at our employees, are they safe, what will it take to transition them to their homes where work’s going to be a lot harder, and what can we do to support them. and that was kind of the first 30 days of scramble was around safety and efficiency and productivity, knowing that life has changed incredibly for all of us but the second thing we’re concerned about is what I’ll call business pivot or business innovation. So, in a world where so many of our organizations are struggling to survive, on the one hand, when you think about the world of academia where they’re trying to figure out a whole new way to teach our kids, when you think about the world of conferences, Eddie, where you and I spent a lot of our time where all of a sudden there’s no face-to-face conference, you think about development where everything has gone digital, it’s this pivot to innovate quickly for the very survival of our organizations is the second thing.And I think to answer your question specifically, while purposeful leadership is critical always for leaders, in a crisis, you have to dial up a couple of those levers even more. I talked a little bit about Innovate. How do I ensure that the innovation that we’re leading now, at Linkage, we massively accelerated what we were already doing, which is our investment in digital, how do we make sure that innovation is structured appropriately? And that’s the Achieve commitment? We’ve got structures and processes that may have to be redesigned on the fly so that we can very quickly pivot. So, that’s number one.
Number two is how can I inspire and engage the organization in a very different way. Before we were talking about a three-year-out plan. Now, we’re talking about a three-month-out plan. What does it look like in the next three months? Are people clear about where we’re headed and how to get there?
We’re making it work.Well, Jennifer, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed talking with you today. Is there an overarching message you want to leave our listeners with or a famous quote that you want to share with us or a leadership lesson?
You’re going to be okay. I like that. Thank you for that advice. And, yes, he is quite an individual, extraordinary. So, thank you for sharing that.We showed you the website for Linkage earlier. Are there any other connecting locations you want to share with our viewers where can they learn more about you and your organization and the fantastic work your team is doing?
Thank you, Jennifer.And thank you for listening. That concludes this episode, everyone. I’m Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator®, reminding you that leadership is not about our position or our title. Leadership is action. Leadership is an activity. It’s not the case of once a leader, always a leader. It’s not a garment we put on and take off. We must be a leader at our core and allow it to emanate in all we do. So, whatever you’re doing, always keep leading.
See you next week, everyone.
Thank you for listening to your host Eddie Turner on the Keep Leading!® Podcast. Please remember to subscribe to the Keep Leading!® Podcast on iTunes or wherever you listen. For more information about Eddie Turner’s work please visit EddieTurnerLLC.com.
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The Keep Leading!® podcast is for people passionate about leadership. It is dedicated to leadership development and insights. Join your host Eddie Turner, The Leadership Excelerator® as he speaks with accomplished leaders and people of influence across the globe as they share their journey to leadership excellence. Listen as they share leadership strategies, techniques and insights. For more information visit eddieturnerllc.com or follow Eddie Turner on Twitter and Instagram at @eddieturnerjr. Like Eddie Turner LLC on Facebook. Connect with Eddie Turner on LinkedIn.