People First! with Dr. Linda Sharkey

By Morag Barrett

Dr. Linda Sharkey is a friend, colleague, inspiration, and thought-leader, as well as a New York Times bestselling author and an in-demand executive coach and speaker. She devotes her career to fueling global talent and delivering business results. Her books Optimizing Talent, Winning with Transglobal Leadership, and our collaborative book The Future-Proof Workplace have become go-to resources for developing leaders for success around the world. 

Shoot for the Stars
Inspired by a family friend, Linda’s interest was first piqued by the stars and constellations, though her aspirations did eventually turn towards leadership and business. As a teller on the management track in a national bank, she was first exposed to the appalling way customers were being treated. This revelation initiated her first career transition out of banking, eventually landing at the American Federation of State Council Municipal Employees (AFSCME). It was there that Linda finally discovered there really were unicorn organizations out there that were all about the people, organizational strategy and making the organization better. Learning about culture, leadership, and organizational change was the real defining pivot point in Linda’s career. 

Local Versus Global Leadership
Linda discovered during her Ph.D. that being a great local leader versus being a great global leader was hugely different. Leaders on the global scale had much higher scores in the people and organization strategy aspects than they did in finance, which was interesting given the focus in most MBA programs on finance. This led to a study that found there were five characteristics of a global leader. Advanced graduate degrees used to focus on what the employees did – the logic, the process, the systems – and paid short shrift to how business gets done – the relationships, the human side. As Linda would find, these human elements were actually making and breaking companies and careers every single day. 

By presenting hard data in the way that financial and marketing departments were able to, Linda offered undeniable proof that the optimizing talent model resulted in better customer service, better leadership scores on your employee engagement scores, and better consistent financial results. According to Linda, being clear on the process that you’re going to use, the data that you're going to track, and how you’re going to develop other people within your organization is essential. 

Post-Pandemic Leadership

This is where the five characteristics of a global leader came into play. Local leaders are not always great at being global leaders. They have to be able to adapt to the uncertainty and the flexibility required for conducting business in various cultures and settings. The same is true for leaders emerging from the pandemic. Now leaders must be able to work with teams that are not necessarily co-located in a way that makes them feel connected to a bigger picture and purpose – which admittedly is not easy to do. You have to be open to different points of view and willing to adjust the processes for each specific situation. It is here that curiosity seems to make a difference.  

One theme seems to spring out of all Linda’s books: transition. Whether it’s preparing people for a promotion, transitioning leaders from one country to another, or transitioning our attitudes about work, it seems we cannot ignore the importance of preparing for transitions before they strike. For Linda, as she finds herself exploring the transition into mentorship and knowledge philanthropy, she encourages all of us to ask the question: as I navigate transitions, how do I redefine who I am and how I show up in new spaces while giving back the expertise I’ve gained?

Whatever transition is on your horizon, how are you going to ease into that move so that you can make the most of it for yourself and others?

Catch the rest of our wonderful chat by following the links below.  

Watch away: Here!
Treat your earbuds: Here!

Dr. Linda Sharkey’s Website
The Future-Proof Workplace
Optimizing Talent
Winning With Transglobal Leadership
Optimizing Talent Workbook
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