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Linda A. Hill: An interview by Bob Morris

Linda Hill

Linda A. Hill is the Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. She is the faculty chair of the Leadership Initiative and has chaired numerous HBS Executive Education programs, including the Young Presidents Organization’s Presidents’ Seminar and the High Potentials Leadership Program. She is a former faculty chair of the Organizational Behavior unit at Harvard Business School, and she was coursehead during the development of the new Leadership and Organizational Behavior MBA required course. She is the co-author of Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives of Becoming a Great Leader with Kent L. Lineback and Becoming a Manager: How New Managers Master the Challenges of Leadership (2nd Edition).

Dr. Hill did a post-doctoral research fellowship at the Harvard Business School and earned a Ph.D. in Behavioral Sciences at the University of Chicago. She received her M.A. in Educational Psychology with a concentration in measurement and evaluation from the University of Chicago. She has a B.A., summa cum laude, in psychology from Bryn Mawr College.

Here is an excerpt from the interview. To read all of it, please click here.

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Morris: For those who have not as yet read Being the Boss, you and Kent Lineback identify and then discuss three “imperatives” to become a great leader. The first is “Manage Yourself.” My own opinion is that someone who can’t do that effectively cannot manage anyone else, much less members of a team (Imperative #3). What do you think?

Hill: Management is fundamentally a social activity, something done between two or more human beings. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that management begins with the manager’s ability to relate to others. That doesn’t mean at all that she must be highly social or gregarious but that she’s able to connect with others and generate trust, which we define as a belief in someone’s competence and character. In short, management begins with who you are and how that leads you to relate to others.

Morris: Robert Sutton has much of value to say about a “good boss” and a “bad  boss.” From your own perspective, what are the defining characteristics of each?

Hill: We focus more in the book on how bosses grow from good to great and spend little time discussing “bad” bosses, except perhaps by implication. Using the framework we propose in the book, I suppose you could say “good” bosses (what we would call great bosses) are those consistently proficient at all three imperatives and therefore able to get the best possible effort from others individually and as a group. And I suppose we would say “bad” bosses are those so inconsistent or so lacking in proficiency that they make others less than they could be even as individuals.

Morris: Based on your experience, what you have observed, and what you have learned from others, what do all great teams share in common?

Hill: In a nutshell, I think they share a deep mutual commitment to their purpose, the reason they exist, and the concrete goals around that purpose, combined with a deep sense of “we.” That “we,” which is an entity to itself and more than a simple aggregation of individuals, is more important than any member individually and can be summed up as a belief that “we” will succeed or fail together.

Morris: When I am asked about great teams, I immediately think about those at the Disney who produced the classic animated films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Bambi, those involved in the Manhattan Project, and whose associated with Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center. All of them had great leadership. Here’s my question: However different they and their situations may be in most other respects, what do all leaders of great teams share in common?

Hill: They focus on creating the characteristics I mentioned in my previous answer – they focus on purpose, goals, and the importance of “we.” Equally important, they include themselves in that “we.”

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To read the complete interview, please click #mce_temp_url#.

Linda Hill invites you to check out the resources at these two websites:

The first is our Web site for the book. Anyone can contact us there. The second is the publisher’s microsite for the book. It contains the book’s full bibliography and other useful information.

Bob Morris is an independent management consultant based in Dallas who specializes in accelerated executive development. He has interviewed more than 100 business thought leaders and reviewed more than 2,200 business books for Amazon. Each week, we will add to the Networlding Business Bookshelf abbreviated reviews in which he discusses a few of his personal favorites. You can contact him directly at

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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