The POWER of Invitational Leadership™

Written by Larry Fehd, CEO & Founder / HPS

I recently announced plans to engage our blog community in the evolution of Invitational Leadership™. As a hypothetical starting point, you may be wondering: 1) What is Invitational Leadership™? 2) What are the unique benefits of Invitational Leadership™? 3) How can I help in evolving the new concept of Invitational Leadership™?

As background, Google’s definition of the term, “invitation”: A written or verbal request inviting someone to go somewhere or to do something. Synonyms: encouragement, provocation, temptation, lure, magnet, bait, enticement, attraction and allure. Have you ever had someone in your life who believed in you more than you believed in yourself at the time? The Concept of Invitational Leadership™

My original inspiration for Invitational Leadership™ was based on a 1969 Harvard Business Review article entitled, Pygmalion in Management. Yes, I was reading HBR in my high school years, which turned out to be an early indicator of my interest in and passion for leadership. The article’s subtitle “A Manager’s Expectations are the Key to a Subordinate’s Performance and Development.” This struck a deep chord at the time.

The Pygmalion effect (also referred to as the Rosenthal effect) is a phenomenon whereby higher expectations lead to an increase in performance. The effect has been tested and proven numerous times over the years. So, if Pygmalion is so effective, why did it fade into the abyss of good ideas that never gained traction? One of the reasons is that most people recognize opportunity, but fail to initiate and sustain action (e.g. New Year’s Resolutions).

One other reason that people struggle to gain and sustain traction links to my distinction between opportunities and innovation Problem Solving, Opportunities and INNOVATIONISTS™. Problem solving is a commodity and seldom moves us forward. Opportunities arise and the savvy capitalize upon them. Innovation, on the other hand, is the application of creativity. It is not about fixing something, it is not about waiting, it is about creating something new that adds unique value and makes a tangible difference in the world.

I predict that the latest research in the field of neuroscience will dramatically change the role of leadership. My recent article Why Creating a Safe Place Matters was not solely based on neuroscience.  It was based on my leadership success while at Johnson & Johnson, empirical evidence in observing other exemplary leaders during my tenure, and conclusion that environmental factors (i.e. creating a safe place) dramatically impact leadership effectiveness as well as employee, team and organization performance.

In response to the hypothetical questions above:

What is Invitational Leadership™? 

Invitational Leadership™ is the leader’s recognition of an individual, team or organization higher potential, affirmation of the higher potential and engagement in inspiring and facilitating the ascent to achieve a level of higher potential. “Highest potential does not have a period at the end.”  – Larry Fehd

We really do not know or have any objective means to assess or predict our own (or others) true highest potential. Why would we impose such limits onto ourselves or others and, in particular, in the context of leadership?

What are the unique benefits of Invitational Leadership™?

Invitational Leadership™ is unique in one, among many, aspect because it integrates the latest research on neuroscience. The benefits are immediate and acknowledge an evolutionary process that is affirmed by the leader and rediscovered by the learner in his or her experience. It is a highly personalized inflection point that prompts a new trajectory and ascent from current performance toward higher potential.

How can I help in evolving the new concept of Invitational Leadership™?

The potential and power of Invitational Leadership™ is much larger than me. I am seeking your feedback, challenges, and perspectives as a broader experiential way to vet the concept. Hopefully together we can validate its value and unique contribution toward helping each of us to become better leaders.

Invitational Leadership™ is a safe catalyst to welcome employees, teams and organizations to move beyond inertia. Inertia is characterized by a tendency to do nothing or to remain unchanged. In addition to extending the invitation, a psychologically safe environment is an imperative for most people to move beyond that status quo. Creating a psychologically safe environment is one of the key attributes of Invitational Leadership™.

“All revolutions involve a battle between the old and the new. The entrenched powers have a vested interest in the existing paradigm. They will do anything to avoid change, and should never be underestimated.” – Thomas Kuhn (1962)

Thomas Samuel Kuhn (1922 – 1996) was an American physicist, historian and philosopher of science whose controversial 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was influential in both academic and popular circles. Kuhn introduced the term paradigm shift, which has since become an English-language idiom.

Even beyond Kuhn’s important insight, there is a growing consensus that new paradigms do not merely fight the previous notion; they actively encompass them in an expanded and richer view.

Tips and Practical Applications: 

  • In the context of Invitational Leadership™, the first invitation is to ourselves.  What invitations are you extending and action plans are you putting in place to support the achievement of what is most meaningful to you?
  • Are you taking time to implement the Tips and Practical Applications at the end of these articles?  Are you completing the exercises and monitoring the results?  Most of us are good at planning, however, most of us also come up short on the doing side of the equation.

Larry Fehd


Larry Fehd is CEO and founded Human Performance Strategies (HPS) in 2000 following a successful career with Johnson & Johnson where he led executive leadership, team and organizational development. He is masterful at helping clients to break through inertia and the status quo.  He conceived the new and proprietary concept of Invitational Leadership™. He envisions the future of leadership as a passage beyond inertia and status quo and works with clients to develop invitational leaders at all levels of the organization.  He consults to a diverse group of U.S. and international clientele, and speaks and writes about, building high-performance leaders, cultures, teams and organizations.

(512) 415-0748

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