I recently met David Burkus over on Twitter. He featured an interview with me at his new project, Leader Lab, and he granted me this interview so I could tell you more about him and what he is doing at Leader Lab.
David Burkus is an executive coach and a leadership consultant who has worked with clients ranging from entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 executives. In addition, David serves as an adjunct professor at Oral Roberts University’s School of Business. David focuses on the areas of leadership development, leadership and organizational theory, and a strengths-based approach to leadership and professional development.
David is a graduate of Oral Roberts University and holds a Master of Arts in Organizational Dynamics from the University of Oklahoma. David is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Strategic Leadership from Regent University. David lives with his wife Janna in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
What is your background and why are you interested in leadership?
I began my career in sales and marketing, first in financial products and then in the pharmaceutical industry. In any sales organization, hierarchies are ever-present and likewise the emphasis on leadership. However, most in the level of management aren’t really aware of what can be learned from leadership theories. After a few years getting to know this hierarchy, I entered graduate school part-time.
It seems like the goal of any solid graduate program in business or organizational studies is to provide employees with the theoretical basis for their malcontent. That’s pretty much what happened with me. As I began to study leadership theory, I found what corporate world told me to learn in order to become a leader completely ignored what the academic world had discovered about what made leaders effective.
This trend worried me, and continues to worry me. I saw a real need to bring leadership theory out of the classroom and into the boardroom.
What is LeaderLab and why were you motivated to start it?
LeaderLab is a community of resources dedicated to the practice of leadership theory. There’s a plethora of leadership resources out there, and the bulk of them are garbage. I blame airport bookstores. Consider this example: You’re a busy middle manager killing time during a layover and so you’re browsing through the bookstore. You’ve got $20 and a 2-hour flight ahead of you. So naturally, you’re looking for something cheap and easy to digest. Obviously, textbooks are out. Short, little business fables are in. These short books are easy to digest, but lack any real nutrients. The nutrients are in the textbooks, which are expensive and intimidating. But they don’t need to be. Leadership theory isn’t exactly rocket surgery. So to help create a more palatable but nutritious way to learn leadership, we started LeaderLab.
Originally, LeaderLab was an idea for a podcast, interviewing those who are doing research on leadership and related topics and providing another platform for them to get their findings out to the people who need to apply them. However, in the short period of time it’s been around, it’s grown into a blog with several contributors and a quarterly online journal. The idea is really to give people a variety of mediums so they can choose the one they prefer.
How does LeaderLab differ from other offerings on leadership and why should people pay attention to what you are doing?
As I said before, there’s a plethora of leadership resources out there. And the majority of them are garbage. So the goal at LeaderLab isn’t just to join the crowd. LeaderLab really is a different type of offering on leadership. LeaderLab is theory with a focus on practice. LeaderLab is intellectual without putting our nose in the air. Really, LeaderLab is the protein shake of leadership resources: easy to digest, but highly nutritious.
Above all, we hope LeaderLab is looked AT a year from now. We have a pretty lofty vision of transforming the way leaders look at theory and in order to achieve that vision, we need leaders to be looking at what we’re doing.
As far as what we look like, we envision a community of 5-10 bloggers, a biweekly or weekly podcast (currently it’s on a monthly production schedule), the quarterly journal and several eBook offerings. We’ve got our first one under way (tentatively titled “A Brief Guide to Leadership”), which is being written alongside the “Intro to Theory” blog post series.