Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Hide and Seek

Written by: on December 1, 2021

Robert Keagan and Lisa Lahey’s An Everyone Culture takes a look into the collective return on investment when a company becomes a DDO, Deliberately Developmental Organization, that empowers their employees at all levels to approach their roles in an authentic manner. At the root, Keagan and Lahey discuss how the ‘hiding’ an employee has to do to cover up their weaknesses becomes a deficit for the company and only reinforces the need to perform in a role. Classified under business and economics, this book also encompasses several tenants of organizational psychology and could be found under the social sciences. Both professors at Harvard University within the realm of education, Keagan and Lahey have been research partners for several decades, producing other works focused on personal and corporate change.

Offering examples of DDOs and the success they have seen in terms of everything from profit to employee retention, it appears that for these organizations, leadership becomes easier as they have implemented an intentional culture that invests in the lives of their people, at every level. These organization “have created a safe enough and demanding enough culture that everyone comes out of hiding” (3). The authors identify that one downfall of traditional methods of professional development tend focus on only the 5-10% of employees that are identified as “high potentials,” leaving the rest of the organization to function at status quo (5). Keagan and Lahey provide real-world examples of DDOs and how their organizations implement the principles discussed and also provide practical tools for the reader to bring this intentional culture shift to their respective context.

As a member of my employers organizational health committee, I am often frustrated when new trainings or development tools are only offered to a small group of employees, often beginning at the top of the organizational chart, a group that has often times had a plethora of development already. I have seen and experienced how the lack of organizational-wide tools or follow through on plans to bring a training to the entire organization can leave the ‘lower-level’ employees feeling less than important which contributes to dissatisfaction in their role and high turnover rates. At the end of the day, the lack of investment is costing an organization more in the long run. I found Keagan and Lahey’s work similar to Shultz’s Being Wrong and Poole’s Leadersmithing in that they each focus on the importance of allowing employees the space to fail and grow which often encompasses the art of practice.

While I don’t find a direct correlation to my NPO with this book, I do find many practical applications for leadership in general. Upon reflection, I leave with a few questions:

  1. As a leader, how comfortable am I with employees practicing? Am I able to identify when they are practicing vs need formal correction or do I jump to a conclusion too quickly?
  2. If leadership you sit under has no intention of moving towards DDO, how can you tangibly implement these principles given your individual sphere of influence?
  3. In looking at other organizations and companies to potentially work at, what questions can be asked in the interview process that would help determine if they are DDO or not?

About the Author

Kayli Hillebrand

Associate Dean of International and Experiential Education

8 responses to “Hide and Seek”

  1. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Kayli, thanks for you insights in this post. You mention your frustration for trainings, etc. for some, usually at the top of the organization. Why do you think that is so? Is it short-sightedness? Self-protective leadership keeping all the “good stuff” to themselves? Something else? One other question for someone who works with younger generations: do you think the younger gens more naturally connect with the DDO ideal than older gens?

    • Kayli Hillebrand says:

      Hi Roy: Just from my observation of the patterns over time, I have seen higher-level leadership pick a new method to implement and then not have the patience or consistent intentionality to let it play out over 2-3 years. So when the ‘quick fix’ doesn’t work, they go to the next thing that will save the day, but in reality, the cycle continues and thus, the developmental tools are only cascaded to the top level or two for each new program/model/service.

      As far as the younger generation, I’d say they absolutely connect naturally with DDOs and even have more awareness to seek out companies that model those attributes. From working with Gen Z, they are very attuned to the importance of mental health, supportive environments and the cultivation of the whole person.

      • mm Roy Gruber says:

        Thanks for your reply. I have also found younger generations naturally in tune with the benefits of DDO principles. Gen Z gets a lot of grief for different reasons, but there are a number of good traits there too. Will older generations let them lead and influence organizational culture for the better? We shall see.

  2. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Kayli: I liked your three questions at the end of your essay. I had never thought about how an interview process might be improved by this book. But your right, a potential employee is also interviewing the company, not just the other way around. It would show a lot of sophistication on the part of a potential employee to be thinking about these dynamics and hopefully the hiring manager would spot this!

  3. Elmarie Parker says:

    Kayli, thank you for your thought-provoking post. I really appreciate your questions at the end. I too have been faced with how do I implement my style of leadership in the sphere where I do have influence, even if the leadership above me operates very differently. My biggest frustration is running into the gatekeeping realities of my organization that press me to engage with those I supervise in ways that I don’t agree with–I can only live in that dissonance for so long. We’re working on change, but there are days when I feel pretty discouraged–especially in terms of how ingrained the current culture is in our administrative functions. What gives you freedom to influence things in your spheres where you have some room to do so? What barriers do you encounter and how do you navigate those barriers?

    • mm Nicole Richardson says:

      Elmarie I think Friedman would say that those who are leading across the norms (even if they are in subordinate positions) often become tired and end up having a failure of nerve. Finding strength to continue to push across “equators” takes tenacity.

  4. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Kayli, once again a thoughtful blog.
    How might Eve Poole suggest a way/understanding in response to your second question at the end?
    What do you see is the difference in how you would respond to “practicing” vs “need formal correction”? Do their 3 adult plateaus benefit your understanding in how to answer that question?

  5. mm Eric Basye says:

    Great questions at the end of your blog. There are some really great organizations out there that do this well, in my opinion. Are you familiar with Praxis? If not, you should check them out. The other consideration? YOU START a work and create the DDO culture you have in mind!

Leave a Reply