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Q&A with author Jean Egmon

Where is the need for this book coming from?

In order to remain competitive executives are stating a need by claiming, "We need to think differently. We need to be more strategic." Also, as a result of baby boomers facing retirement, a critical group of younger workers will have to assume more leadership responsibility with less experience. As a result, another question arises: "How do we become smarter faster?" Even those who are good leaders may not know how to facilitate the development of leadership capabilities for themselves and for others. This book gives readers an actionable system for thinking, and therefore, acting differently as well enabling others to do so.

How can this book help leaders in organizations?

A lot of leadership books are very behavioral, which is not enough if innovation and agility are your goals. If a book only provides best practice behaviors, the reader may not know on what they are based, when to use them, how to use them, and how to adjust them. So the best practices only work for imitation within routines. Because we're in a global, high tech, connected economy, you have fewer and fewer routine situations. A leader has to look at a non-routine problem and think about it in a creative and original way. The Prepared Mind helps leaders anticipate and think systematically, rather than just imitating. The Prepared Mind provides a platform on which to build capability and talent across situations.

What most prepared you to write the book?

My research looking at leadership and the role of cognition among leaders in turn-around companies was relevant, as was my own experience in organizations and consulting with leaders across a wide range of industries. I saw what people did successfully across a wide range of situations, and my own education gave me the background to be able to understand and explain scientifically what was underneath that success. I then designed ways that people at all levels could learn and master leadership as well.

Tell us about your collaboration with co-author Bill Welter. How did it start, and what complementary skills did she bring to the writing process?

Bill used Louis Pasteur's concept of The Prepared Mind, and a version of the 8 skills, to organize and explain what he, too, had observed of leaders. He was looking for a "practical academic" who could test his ideas and develop ways to teach and learn them. People use terms like "learning," or "enabling," or "challenging" all the time, but few people really think about what they're actively doing and why some people are better at it than others. It has to do with the strategic use of the underlying foundations and concepts. When you have this understanding, your power in using the skills greatly increases.

Are there any complementary tools or resources you can recommend to readers?

We're developing an assessment tool so leaders can understand their level of proficiency for each of the skills. Over time people can continually assess themselves to see if they're improving in particular areas. We're also thinking of how we could assess the collective prepared mind of teams, networks and entire organizations.

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The Prepared Mind of the leader: Eight skills leaders use to innovate, make decisions, and solve problems.
Bill Welter, Adaptive Strategies Inc., mindprep.com
Jean Egmon, Third Angle, Inc., third-angle.com
Observe. Reason. Imagine. Challenge. Decide. Learn. Enable. Reflect.