Book Review: “Expert to Executive: Mastering the SOPs of Leading” by Tyson, Edward E.

We have all witnessed this phenomenon – organizations typically choose some of their best individual contributors or domain experts to be in leadership positions (past record is the best indicator of future performance!). Irrespective of whether or not expectations at leadership roles are specified and understood, this transition from being an expert to a manager is often hard and bewildering. This book that I read recently (“Expert to Executive: Mastering the SOPs of Leading” by Tyson, Edward E.) proposes a framework to bridge the chasm between an expert and a leader

One of the assertions the book makes is that leaders aren’t leading because we haven’t clearly defined the term or differentiated their work from their team’s work. The book is written in a conversation style describing struggles of a co-founder Raj, who is one of the best scientific minds in the field his medical research based start-up operates in. Raj along with Franky and Mak started this company seven years ago. After the sudden loss of Mak, Raj had been elevated from Chief Science Officer to CEO. A year into his elevation, Raj has gone back to the shell of conducting experiments while the rest of the org is on the brink of collapse due to chaos and lack of leadership clarity. Franky has hired an executive coach, Lake, to help solve the problem by working with Raj. Rest of the book narrates how Lake and Franky understand the situation and turn-around. It’s an easy read (but hard to reflect!), I will just list out few of my takeaways

  1. As a leader, taking responsibility for your actions is important. Taking all of the responsibility may rob others of theirs!
  2. “The ECT(M) Transformation Model helps leaders guide individual, team and organizational development efforts. The first three phases (Explore, Clarify and Transform) are often repeated multiple times in succession until the process and outcomes meet the established criteria
  3. The big takeaway about emotional intelligence is it can be developed, versus more stable elements of who we are, like personality or raw intelligence
  4. As a leader, your coaching has to match your mentee’s level of understanding. This is the reason why platitudes like “have more frequent interactions with stakeholders” don’t exactly work for someone who is having a hard time working with others. Because often struggling person doesn’t understand how having more meetings will help
  5. One must be aware of own “unconscious competence” to bridge any gap especially when assessing other people
  6. Leadership is a process of social organization meant to yield willing, capable and sustainable communities of effort
    1. Community of effort implies a group of people who are united by their willingness and ability to act interdependently
    2. Leadership is the process we use to cultivate a community of effort. If you could do it alone, you wouldn’t need to lead
    3. The important thing is to build a strong leadership foundation. This means focusing on three key areas: structuring, operating, and perfecting your communities of effort
  7. Leading is the active engagement in the process of cultivating willing, capable, and sustainable communities of effort while leaders are those who accept accountability for this effort
  8. Your primary goal as a leader is assembling a high-performance engine, not winning the race! Winning the race is the team’s primary objective and your secondary objective
  9. Every leader has to create her own Leadership SOP basis what works for her, team and organization and keep it refining (perfecting)

Fig 1: Key Components of LeadershipSOP Framework

It’s a great practicable book, would recommend reading and importantly reflecting on it to create one’s own LeadershipSOP model which is indeed a harder task!

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