Herminia Ibarra is an expert on professional and leadership development. She is the Cora Chaired Professor of Leadership and Learning, and Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD. She has also served at the Harvard Business School faculty for thirteen years. Thinkers 50 ranked Ibarra #8 among the most influential business gurus in the world.

As the author of Act like a leader, think like a leader, her target readership is anyone who is employed in a leadership position, such as a CEO or a Manager. It is also aimed at entrepreneurs and business people who want to climb up the corporate ladder.

The premise of this book is just as the title says – In order to think like a leader, you have to first act like one. If at first this seems inauthentic, that’s OK, it will. If you act like a leader, eventually you will make the transition into one and the behaviours will become more authentic and permanent.

Ibarra sets out a stage by stage process that people who want to make this transition go through, it is as follows:

  • Disconfirmation – feeling a gap between where you are and where you want to be.
  • Simple addition – add new behaviours and roles to your current role without subtracting.
  • Complication – setbacks and exhaustion from making time for old and new behaviours.
  • Course correction – frustrations that raise big career questions. Reflect on new experiences and re-examine old goals and make new ones.
  • Internalisation – Changes that stick because they are motivated by new behaviours, roles and decisions you make that express your new identity and who you have become.

Ibarra gives some good practical advice on networking and stresses that you must become a good networker in order to make the leadership transition. In order to become a good networker, similarly to becoming a leader, you must act. She explains how you should not just network in your normal corporate level, as many people do, but instead you should network ‘across and out’. This essentially means not just sticking to speaking to people who are on your level at work. You need operational, personal and strategic networks. Not only do you have to network, Ibarra explains, you also have to help others connect with each other. If you can become the middle person who creates a bridge between two people, you heighten your chances of making a good impression on those who will allow you take make the leadership transition.

I have applied this knowledge by taking on a leadership role in certain projects and also voicing my opinions, even if they are unpopular opinions, in meetings, letting people know that I am willing to speak the truth whilst keeping an open mind.