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HBR/McKinsey M-Prize: Leaders Everywhere Challenge

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Challenge Winners

We are delighted to announce the winners of the Leaders Everywhere Challenge, the second leg of this year's HBR/McKinsey M-Prize for Management Innovation. We owe a huge debt to all of the management mavericks out there with the courage, ingenuity, and sheer grit to take on the status quo—and the generosity to share what they’ve learned in the process. Thank you all!

The winners of the Leaders Everywhere Challenge (in alphabetical order):

Biggest-ever day of collective action to improve healthcare that started with a tweet
Story by Helen Bevan, Damian Roland, Jackie Lynton, Pollyanna Jones

A truly inspirational account of collective action across the world’s largest health system (and fifth largest employer), England’s National Health Service (NHS), with the goal of improving patient care. A battle plan for starting a social movement—energizing radicals, unleashing leaders, connecting far-flung actors—inside a hierarchical system.

Using Micro-Learning to Boost Influence Skills in Emergent Leaders
Story by Mark Clare

A recipe for turning an abstract leadership curriculum into sustainable behavior change and a refreshing practical perspective on what it means to exert influence when you are not in charge.

Reweaving Corporate DNA: Building a Culture of Design Thinking at Citrix
Story by Catherine Courage

A remarkable case study of building a culture of innovation and leadership across a global organization by equipping and energizing people with 21st-century leadership skills—curiosity, a bias toward action and experimentation, the ability to collaborate across boundaries.

Teaming at GE Aviation
Story by Rasheedah Jones

A powerful, path-breaking approach to self-directed work and participative management. This detailed case study unpacks both the mechanics and the human element of syndicating leadership in a complex manufacturing environment—and scaling that model globally.

A Tale of Two Captains: Making the Case for the Universal Applicability of Leaders Everywhere
Story by Charlie Kim and David Marquet

Interwoven narratives of embedding leadership as a core organizational capability in two very different settings—a nuclear powered submarine and an Internet startup. Packed with granular detail, replicable approaches and deep lessons, this story makes the case for a considered, comprehensive approach to distributing leadership.

Don't remove their igloos!
Story by Peter King, Juanita Cardoza, and Carlos Largacha-Martinez

An entertaining and engaging story of building a highly adaptable, high-growth organization on the foundation of unrestricted confidence in every employee’s potential, unrestricted freedom to contribute, and unconditional trust—the kind of culture that switches on the next generation of leaders and leads to remarkable results.

The 4-Hat Hack: How a micro change in your employee portal can yield mega results in Leadership
Hack by Joel Modestus

A bold yet practical hack of the typical company social network to unearth, cultivate, recognize and reward leaders and leadership—wherever it resides in the organization. A straightforward, shovel-ready experiment in expanding an organization’s leadership capacity.

Rap a Tap, Tap Tap, Join TITAN and you are the leader
Story by Lalgudi Ramanathan Natarajan and Sumant Sood

An ambitious and wide-ranging approach to creating multiple channels for leadership development, featuring a clever portfolio of approaches for maximizing mobility, growth, and impact from the shop floor to the management ranks.

Who do people report to here?
Story by Richard Sheridan

A truly progressive story of replacing hierarchy with a team of highly-committed, trusting, and accountable colleagues. Menlo Innovation’s totally original design for work yields a vibrant, intense, deeply human environment where nobody—and everybody—is the boss.

Challenge Finalists

Meet the eighteen finalists of the Leaders Everywhere Challenge, the second leg of the Harvard Business Review/McKinsey M-Prize for Management Innovation—a robust collection of real-world case studies and courageous experiments in rethinking the work of leadership, redistributing power, and unleashing 21st century leadership skills. Here they are in alphabetical order:

Biggest-ever day of collective action to improve healthcare that started with a tweet
Story by Helen Bevan, Damian Roland, Jackie Lynton, Pollyanna Jones

Teaming at GE Aviation
Story by Rasheedah Jones

The System of Leadership
Hack by Monique Jordan

Don't remove their igloos!
Story by Peter King, Juanita Cardoza, and Carlos Largacha-Martinez

Rap a Tap , Tap Tap , Join TITAN and you are the leader
Story by Lalgudi Ramanathan Natarajan and Sumant Sood

What goes into building a CEO Factory?
Story by Stephen Remedios

Who do people report to here?
Story by Richard Sheridan

Quit Email and Start Leading
Hack by Kim Spinder

Challenge Brief

Never before has leadership been so critical, and never before has it seemed in such short supply. It takes extraordinary leadership to keep an organization relevant in a world of relentless change. It takes extraordinary leadership to navigate the complexities of global supply chains, industry ecosystems, and labyrinthine regulation. And it takes extraordinary leadership to unleash the human capabilities—initiative, imagination and passion—that fuel success in the “creative economy.”

Yet for the all the effort that is put into selecting, training and assessing leaders, there still seems to be a dearth of truly top-level executive talent. Hyperkinetic change has a way of turning today’s iconic leaders into tomorrow’s bewildered bureaucrats.

When leaders come up short, as they often do, the problem may have less to do with them as individuals than with the top-down structures in which they operate. In most organizations, the responsibility for setting direction, developing strategy and allocating resources is highly centralized. Maybe that mattered less in a world where change was better behaved, but today, senior management’s monopoly on “strategic leadership” can rapidly turn a leader into a laggard.

Get up and running with the Leaders Everywhere Cheatsheet

Beyond these structural limits are cognitive limits. Even the most malleable minds can only attend to so much. With 25 billion gigabits of digital information getting created every day, each of us is becoming ignorant faster. Senior executives have limited time and attention. A problem or an opportunity has to be big to elbow its way into a CEO’s consciousness—and by the time it does, it’s often too late for the organization to intercept the future.

That doesn’t mean we should lower our standards when searching for C-suite executives. It does mean we should be working a lot harder to unleash the leadership talents of everyone else. Put simply, a pyramidal organization demands too much of too few, and squanders the leadership talents of those who don’t have leadership “roles.”

In the future, a company that strives to build a leadership advantage will need an organizational model that gives everyone the chance to lead if they’re capable; and a talent development model that helps everyone to become capable.

So what does it take to dramatically enlarge the leadership capacity of an organization?  Two things, we think: 

  •   First, you have to redistribute power in a way that gives many more individuals the opportunity to lead.
  •   Second, you have to equip and energize individuals to lead even when they lack formal authority.

These two challenges are at the heart of the Leaders Everywhere Challenge.

What are some of the ways an organization might broaden its internal leadership franchise?  Several leverage points come to mind.  A company could ...

  •   Break big units into smaller units, thereby creating more opportunities for individuals to become full-fledged business leaders.
  •   Support the formation of informal teams and “self-organizing” communities where “natural leaders” get the chance to shine.
  •   Push down P&L responsibility and give lower level employees a lot more decision-making autonomy.
  •   Syndicate the work of executive leadership by opening up the strategic planning and budgeting processes to everyone in the organization.
  •   Use peer-based review and compensation systems to identify and reward leadership wherever it occurs.
  •   Systematically de-emphasize the formal hierarchy in favor of more fluid, project-based structures.
  •   Work to legitimize the notion of “bottom-up” leadership through communication and recognition systems.      
  • Distribute the work of critical staff functions by giving associates at all levels the opportunity to help reengineer core management systems and processes.
  •   Hold leaders responsible for increasing the stock of “leadership capital” within their organizations through coaching and delegation.
  •   And perhaps most importantly, systematically train individuals in the art and science of “leading without power.” [*Read more here]

So now it’s up to you.  What is your organization doing to build its leadership advantage? How is it working to escape the limits of top-down power structures?  What is it doing to equip and energize individuals to exercise their leadership gifts, wherever they are in the organization?  How is it nurturing the sort of leaders others will want to follow in a post-bureaucratic world? And what are you doing to strengthen your own leadership capacity?

For all of the billions organizations invest each year in “leadership development,” a criminal amount of human potential is left on the table. Training and development programs almost universally focus factory-like on inputs and outputs: absorb curriculum, check a box; learn a skill, advance a rung; submit an assessment, fix a problem. Flavor-of-the-month remedies, off-the-shelf programs, immersions, and excursions stuff people full of competencies and skills but produce astonishingly few great leaders.

Remember that classic New Yorker cartoon with Rover sitting in front of a computer? The caption read, “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.”  Well, on the web, no one knows you’re a senior vice president either. That’s why every leader is going to have to learn how to get things done in a world where authority is the reciprocal of followership.

In 1973, Peter Drucker stated in his book Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, "Management is not culture-free, that is, part of the world of nature. It is a social function. It is, therefore, both socially accountable and culturally embedded." 

We live in a world where never before has leadership been so necessary but where so often leaders seem to come up short. Our sense is that this is not really a problem of individuals; this is a problem of organizational structures—those traditional pyramidal structures that demand too much of too few and not enough of everyone else.

Never before has leadership been so critical, and never before has it seemed in such short supply. That's why we're delighted to announce the Leaders Everywhere Challenge today. The second leg of the 2012-13 HBR/McKinsey M-Prize calls for real-world case studies and bold hacks that demonstrate how we can dramatically expand the leadership capacity of all of our organizations by both redistributing power in a way that gives many more individuals an opportunity to lead, and equipping and energizing people to lead even when they lack formal authority.

marissa-beck's picture
A decade apart and a continent away, two stories in dramatically different settings reinforce the idea that “leaders everywhere” is a universally applicable construct.
max-shkud_1's picture
James Carse, in his great book, Finite and Infinite Games, suggests,There are at least two kinds of games.One could be called finite, the other infinite.The finite game is played
By Max Shkud on June 28, 2013
helen-bevan_1's picture
This entry tells the extraordinary story of how a small group of trainee clinicians, young leaders and improvement facilitators from within the National Health Service (NHS) of England created a call
By Helen Bevan on June 14, 2013
stacy-st-louis's picture
 In 2009, Citrix CEO Mark Templeton issued a challenge: Make Citrix a leader of design excellence by transforming the traditional engineering-driven company into one whose very DNA is built on th
lalgudi-ramanathan-natarajan's picture
 Imagine this.Head of manufacturing, being given the responsibility to lead an all new company venture in the mass market jewellery business!!Head of finance, being given the res
peter-rennie's picture
This is Karen's story. In 2011 a colleague and I attended a presentation at a conference. The speaker had made a mistake but had not realized it.
By Peter Rennie on July 14, 2013
kim-spinder's picture
Quitting email is the first step into a new dimension of communications energized by organic collaboration where we share leadership.
By Kim Spinder on July 13, 2013
rasheedah-jones's picture
Teaming, also referred to as a self-directed work structure, participative management or a high performance work system, is a cultural priority for GE Aviation Supply Chain.  It is an effort to m
By Rasheedah Jones on July 14, 2013
monique-jordan_1's picture
Un-executable IntelligenceThe conversation about effective leadership started during the industrial age in response to the need to effectively (and efficiently) direct the work of emp
By Monique Jordan on July 14, 2013
agustin-jimenez's picture
“If passion is not aroused, not much is going to happen, and responsibility will never has a chance.” Harrison Owen“Leadership everywhere” is impossible under the premises of the organizational model
By Agustin Jimenez on July 8, 2013
peter-king_1's picture
This is the story of a Colombian based engineering company that grew from 60 people in 2006 to over 1000 by 2012.
By Peter King on June 24, 2013
martens-valerie's picture
Our best practice contains two ideas: 1) The transformation of the company culture and values towards a culture of Performance, Empowerment,  Ac
By Martens Valerie on July 13, 2013
richard-sheridan's picture
A chance question during a seminar exposed a cultural norm at Menlo Innovations that confounds most corporate thinkers. Menlo has no hierarchy. They are a team in the truest sense of the word.


Submit a Hack (a disruptive idea, radical fix, or experimental design) or a Story (a real-world case study of a single practice, an initiative, or a broad-based transformation) on the subject of how organizations and leaders have tackled (or could tackle) two urgent challenges: 1) redistributing power in a way that gives many more individuals an opportunity to lead, and 2) equipping and energizing people to lead even when they lack formal authority.

Participation is open to any registered member of the MIX. Join here

MIXers may (and are encouraged to) team up to co-author submissions. To work collaboratively, one MIX member needs to start a Story or Hack and then add other MIX members as participants by entering their names in the co-author field. All listed authors will have edit access to the Story or Hack.

Submissions may draw on secondary source materials but should be based primarily on first-hand experience or an original idea. In every case, be sure to credit all those who contributed to your story or hack and provide citations to external reference material.

The Leaders Everywhere Challenge will unfold in two stages: a preliminary submission phase ending July 14, 2013 and a final round for the finalist teams ending August 30, 2013.

All entries will be judged by our panel of leading management thinkers and progressive practitioners, including:

  • DeLisa Alexander - EVP & Chief People Officer, Red Hat, Inc.
  • Gary Hamel - Co-founder of the MIX
  • Richard Lyons - Dean, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley
  • Carmen Medina - Specialist Leader, Deloitte Consulting, Former Director, Center for the Study of Intelligence, CIA
  • Diego Rodriguez - Partner, IDEO, Founding Professor, Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, Stanford (

Winners will receive significant recognition as management innovators on the MIX, Harvard Business Review and, the McKinsey Quarterly and Winners will also earn the chance to appear at future live events hosted by the MIX and its partners.