Herminia Ibarra: Act Before You Think!


Workplace managers are often told to define their leadership purpose & authentic self, & that this personal introspection & self-reflection will guide their leadership journey.

But research on how adults actually learn shows that the logical sequence – “think, then act” – is reversed in a personal change process such as what’s involved with becoming a leader. In other words, we only increase our self-knowledge in the process of making changes. We try something new and then observe the results – how it feels to us, how others around us react – & only later reflect on and perhaps internalize what our experience taught us.

Tied to this understanding, London Business School Organizational Behavior professor, Herminia Ibarra titled her global bestseller, “Act Like A Leader, Think Like A Leader.”   

Herminia tosses conventional wisdom aside – the idea that managers should increase their self-awareness first – & asserts that managers must experiment by taking actions and trying new things. (“How can I know what I think until I see what I do”)? New experiences not only change how we think, they change who we become.  In other words, who we are as a leader is not the starting point on our development journey, but rather the outcome of learning about ourselves.

Herminia Ibarra is ranked among the top management thinkers in the world by Thinkers50. She is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Expert Network, a judge for the Financial Times Business Book of the Year Award, and a fellow of the British Academy. Before moving to London, she taught at the Harvard Business School.

This is the second time Herminia has been a guest on the podcast. Her first episode, focused on her study of how Satya Nadella transformed Microsoft, is the second most downloaded episode in our five-year-long podcast series.

By Mark C. Crowley

Mark C. Crowley is the author of Lead From The Heart: Transformational Leadership For The 21st Century which has been taught in 11 American universities. He is a global speaker, leadership consultant and thought leader on the topics of workplace culture and employee engagement.