Francis Frei and Anne Morriss – co-authors of Uncommon Service – offer a kinder, gentler, more conscious path to inspiring and uniting employees.
Harvard Business School professor Frances Frei recently served as Uber’s first senior vice president of leadership and strategy. Leadership coach Anne Morriss is the executive founder of The Leadership Consortium. Together, they revile the conventional wisdom that maintains leaders must be self-centered to inspire their workforce. Frei and Morriss demonstrate the value of focusing less on yourself and more on making everyone around you better. They offer a compelling, unsentimental case for building an organizational foundation based on trust and love.
Your job is to see the full humanity of the people you seek to lead, including their ability to evolve.Francis Frei and Anne Morriss
Unleashed was a Silver Medal Winner for Best Leadership Books in the 2021 Axiom Business Book Awards and was shortlisted for the OWL (Outstanding Works of Literature in Management and Culture). Forbes and The Financial Times praised it, and Peggy Johnson, former executive VP of business development at Microsoft, said, “…the engaging stories and real-life examples [that] illustrate the traits of effective leaders will help you empower others to do their best work and create lasting impact.”
Traditional leadership narratives that focus on a leader’s strengths and weaknesses, Frei and Morriss assert, are short-sighted. Instead of looking inward, they contend, leaders must create environments in which the people they lead can grow and prosper.
Leadership, at its core, isn’t about you. It’s about how effective you are at unleashing other people. Full stop. That’s it. That’s the secret.Francis Frei and Anne Morriss
Frei and Morriss describe destructively self-focused leaders as incurious about what others think, feel or do; threatened by others’ strengths or accomplishments; always in crisis mode; and pessimistic about the future.
Empowered leaders have faith in and recognize the humanity of their people and believe in their potential. Empowering leaders give people another chance when they stumble; they tell employees directly about their strengths and about how their behavior positively affects others.
Leaders who create the conditions for others to succeed must take risks that may threaten their own sense of security, the authors warn. These leaders earn trust by offering authenticity, logical actions and empathy.
There is an obvious upside to leaders being informed and articulate, but when it comes to trust, we also crave access to the person behind the talking points.Francis Frei and Anne Morriss
Frei and Morriss urge you to consider yourself before you lead others. They ask you to consider whether you trust your reasoning and capacity to execute. Are you faithful to your core ambition?
Hold people to lofty standards while demonstrating your devotion to them, acting with love. Frei and Morriss maintain that high standards and devotion are not mutually exclusive and, in fact, support one another.
Hewing to a canonical position that appears in many contemporary leadership guides, they explain that people will repeat positive behaviors when you sincerely, specifically praise their actions. They remind you of the destructive consequences of negative feedback and offer this formula: For every constructive criticism you make, offer a minimum of five positive reinforcements.
When you inculcate a sense of belonging in your company culture, your teams thrive. Again offering advice that many authors hold dear, the authors say that building teams means promoting diversity and creating an inclusive environment in which people can be their authentic selves. They urge you to attract and select people from diverse populations, arguing that if your team’s demographics don’t approximate that of the general population, you’re not drawing the right people.
A culture of inclusion has four levels: safe, welcome, celebrated and cherished.Francis Frei and Anne Morriss
The authors underscore that LGBTQ+ employees require a safe, supportive environment, and that you must be thoughtful and respectful if you ask an LGBTQ+ person about their background.
Frei and Morriss make a telling, practical and unique point: Culture, like strategy, is silent but pervasive. This means you should set a direction, as a leader, and empower your people to do the rest. Culture, they remind you, dictates workplace behavior.
Culture establishes the rules of engagement after leadership leaves the room; it explains how things are really done around here.Francis Frei Anne Morriss
If you think your culture needs a reset, speak to your employees individually or in small groups. Ask if their experiences align with your cultural realities, andlisten without being defensive – though the authors concede that not becoming defensive may take focus and discipline.
Proceed with care before embarking on a cultural modification mission. To this end, squelch any urge to share any data you collect widely until you conceive of and codify your formal strategy. Acknowledging that achieving the culture you want takes many steps along the road, the authors repeat that the right culture will bring everything together.
Frei and Morriss offer an intelligent, reasoned, singular combination of Brené Brown-style compassion and Harvard Business School hard-nosed practical advice. Their tone and conversation style combine these two qualities throughout, and underscore the workable nature of their arguments. This is a paradigmatic, almost definitional presentation of the new and de rigueur approach to management, one that embraces workers’ humanity and leaders’ self-examination. Frei and Morriss do not cross over into Brown’s semi-New Age territory. They present workable guidance for leaders who may be new to these more empathetic concepts and methods.
Frances Frei and Anne Morriss also co-authored Uncommon Service. Other groundbreaking works on different leadership perspectives include Leading Without Authority by Keith Ferrazzi and Noel Weyrich; Dare to Lead by Brené Brown; and Encouraging the Heart by James M. Kouzes.