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The Leading Edge: What Matters
Volume 3 | Issue 1February 2012

Paula SingerWe interviewed Paula Singer, CEO/Chief Strategist at The Singer Group, Inc. She told us that her focus is helping her clients reach excellence.Paula has extensive expertise in leadership coaching, strategic planning, change management, and organizational development. Her in-depth experience in every aspect of the human resources function, has enabled her to play a key role in helping organizations develop innovative solutions that allow for greater effectiveness in achieving their missions.


TLE: What leadership trends are you observing?


PS: That leadership does not reside in one person. Leadership stems from anyone, in any position, depending upon a variety of factors: Who has the expertise? Who is closest to the customer? Who is not afraid to speak up? We are also seeing a need for leaders and staff at every level to continually grow and evolve, to innovate, to take risks and to learn from successes and failures.


TLE: What challenges are leaders facing today?


PS: What comes to mind, maybe because we're doing a lot of work with clients on leadership development and succession planning, is that as baby boomers age, finding and developing replacement leaders is a challenge. Tied to this is the realization that the work is not the same as it once was and that doing the 'right work' is imperative, especially given budget cuts and a new generation that is eager to learn, grow and stretch. 


TLE: Are these challenges different than the challenges you faced as a leader?


PS: Early in my career, we worked under a command and control model. Now it's about collaboration, connection and contribution. Frankly, it's much easier to lead while commanding and controlling. Getting buy-in, actively listening to employees and customers, working in partnership, building trust, being open, and collaborating is time consuming - yet yields tremendous payoffs. Living in an era of "cuts/fast paced change/technology," and a multigenerational workforce, calls for leaders who have vision, humility, and high levels of self-awareness. These leaders must be able to capitalize on diversity, function as systems thinkers and inspire followers to both follow and lead.


TLE: What attributes are your clients looking for in their future talent?


PS: Emotional intelligence, flexibility, the ability to appreciate and capitalize on differences and diversity, the ability to take risks and not fear failure. They are also looking for excellent communications skills, systems thinking, openness and the ability to learn how to learn.


TLE: What advice would you offer to an emerging leader?


PS: IQ and skills make great B-players; it's emotional intelligence that transforms an individual into a star. Here are seven things emerging leaders should focus on:

  1. Develop your relationship skills
  2. Learn how to play with others in the sandbox
  3. Listen and ensure that others feel heard
  4. Continually learn -- especially about yourself and others (a key in building trust with employees, customers, suppliers, etc.)
  5. Create and nourish partnerships with all.
  6. Give employees the tools they need to be successful, and they will be.
  7. Recognize and support them; if you do so, they will be happy and engaged - and so will your customers.

We encourage our clients to seek out interventions that will help them, their organizations, their employees and their customers: strategic plans that align the organization ensure that business goals can be met. Succession plans ensure that an organization has the bench strength to function successfully well into the future. Leadership development provides a deep and diverse pool of future leaders from which to choose. Leadership coaching provides leaders with the insight and tools to hone their own skills to the benefit of all staff and customers. Each has its time and place and all are critical.


TLE: What are three leadership books that every leader should have on their bookshelf?


PS: Funny -- the first two that come to mind aren't books at all -- but blogs! The blogs are HBR's (Harvard Business Review at and Seth Godin's. ( While wildly different, I find myself reading both regularly. They push the thinking of leaders. I also recommend The Leadership Challenge ( for soon-to-be and new leaders as well as Getting it Done: How to Lead When You're Not In Charge, and The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World by Ronald A. Heifetz , Marty Linsky and Alexander Grashow. Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long by David Rock is also good.  

About Leadership Development Services

We help individuals and organizations achieve excellence through leadership development. To do this, we provide customized training, facilitation, consultation, and coaching services (on-site and virtual) that improve the quality of leadership and mentoring. We partner with clients to create sustainable mentoring support structures and processes and roadmaps for creating a mentoring culture. We offer innovative and comprehensive leadership development programs to enhance individual and organizational learning and accountability. Our long-standing relationships with clients around the world are  testimony to our ability to facilitate results that matter. 

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To purchase any of the books that

Paula Singer

recommended, click on the book below. 




The Practice of Adaptive Leadership 


You Brain At Work