Author Chat: Inflection by Sharath Jeevan
Inflection moments are those points at which we stand at a crossroads and ask ourselves, as leaders, what’s the next mountain to climb? Sharath Jeevan explores the question of how to navigate those crossroads with the right roadmap, in his newly released book, Inflection.
In this edition of Author Chat, Disrupt Your Career speaks with Sharath about his latest book Inflection: A Roadmap for Leaders at a Crossroads (Intrinsic Press, February 2024). Sharath believes that these critical moments are when we have the chance to future-proof success – for ourselves, our organisations and others – for many years, even decades, to come. An edited version of our conversation with Sharath follows.
Why did you write this book?
One of the things I realized from my career as CEO and leader was that not all leadership time is created equal. We have these make or break moments that really will define or future proof our success, both our organization’s success, our team’s success, but also our own success as leaders for many years to come. It felt like that had not really been addressed deeply in the literature on leadership, certainly to the extent it deserves. I also found in my own work with leaders – in many different sectors, many different countries – coming back again and again to that theme of how do you navigate those really important moments. That’s the idea of inflection: how do you navigate those inflection moments to create a better future overall?
Tell us about how you wrote the book, as we know you used an original collaborative process.
I wrote my first book a couple of years ago, and really enjoyed being on the (Disrupt Your Career) podcast talking about it, then. I loved it but it was a very lonely experience: it was me in a dark room, I had an editor, and it felt like lots of late nights and lots of individual musings. I really wanted to have my community of friends (which I very much count you in) to help drive and build that with me. So I did an experiment, which I think is fairly unique – to my knowledge anyway – where I wrote up a lot, a large section of the book live on LinkedIn, through swarm, what I call micro chapters, almost post size bits and pieces. Over the course, I had a rough game plan of where it was going and the book had a rough structure, but I tried to be in the moment as much as possible and respond to the feedback that I was hearing. If there was more energy on one point and one aspect of leadership, for example, and if there were ideas to build on in the book and strengthen some of the core concepts then I’d do that as well. It was a lovely way of writing actually, I really enjoyed it. It was much more sociable. I then had a wonderful editor and set of people who helped me finalize the book and put it into its final shape. It was just a much more enjoyable, collaborative processes.
What are the key concepts and messages that you ended up sharing in the book after this unique process?
The key thing really is to recognize when you are at an inflection moment, whether you as an individual are at one, whether your organization is at one with your sector, or the wider world is at one as well. The book talks a lot about how to recognize one, how to see what I call the asteroids, the external events that might be creating that moment of inflection, or all your internal things in the starship: changes in your team, your governance, you as a leader, etc. How do you recognize them first of all? And I think a key insight from the book is the idea that what makes inflection so hard is you’ve got to navigate multiple time periods. You’ve got to look at the long term and where we want to go, look at the medium term and how to nurture your potential towards that, look at how, in the short term, how to stay motivated and resilient. Finally, how to keep learning across those things. I use in the book that framework of DIAL and the hands of a watch or a clock: the hour hand, minute hand second hand and the overall dial as a metaphor for that. But I think it goes quite deep into all four of those time horizons and looks at what does it mean to lead and think about these horizons very consciously and intentionally.
If you were to quote one particular case study or story or something that emerged in the book, what would it be?
One of the things I’ve been really proud to have done is working with the B Corp movement. They are a certification organization that helps businesses around the world certify their social impact and add rigor to that process. In the UK, within about seven or eight years of being, about 3% of UK GDP now goes to the B Corp movement, which is an amazing milestone so quickly. It’s analogous in other countries, of course, as well, but I’ve been working with them over the last 6-8 months around: What is their inflection moment? What does that look like? Where do they go next? I can’t reveal all of it, but basically (we ask) what is that next mountain to climb? And that’s often the first question that is the right one to ask and to do reflection on if you if you aren’t one, where do you want to go next? You’ve already achieved a lot, there’s usually a lot of fuel in the tank as it were as well, but what does that next mountain look like? How can they have a more systemic impact on the business landscape more widely? This is just one example of the kinds of organizations that I have been able to practically work with in terms of ideas in the book.
To listen to this Author Chat podcast
To order Sharath’s book Inflection
Intrinsic Lab’s homepage
The DIAL Framework
Sharath’s Linkedin profile
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