Molly D. Shepard & Peter J Dean: The Leader's Edge/Leaders by Design

Our NativeAdVice:


Molly D. Shepard is President and Chief Executive Officer of The Leader’s Edge/Leaders By Design, a company dedicated to the advancement of executive and high-potential leaders. She has more than 30 years of experience in career counseling, leadership development, executive coaching and executive search. Peter J. Dean, Ph.D. heads Leaders By Design, the men’s leadership development and executive coaching division of The Leader’s Edge. With over 30 years of national and international experience in the industry, Peter bases his executive coaching and consulting on current reviews of literature and research from the ever-expanding field of leadership development and the best practices in leadership development and executive coaching.

How did you get into the industry?

Molly: I've been coaching and counseling executives for the last 30 years. I have a Master’s Degree in Psychological Counseling as well as a Master’s Degree in Leadership. I've started two consulting companies and have grounded both in high quality, high integrity senior leadership development and coaching principles. Most recently, I've specialized in helping senior women advance their careers in the corporate marketplace by effectively dealing with the challenges facing them in entering the executive suites and C-Suites of their companies.

Peter: I completed my dissertation on the topic of leadership development while in graduate school at the University of Iowa. Most recently, I was on the faculty at the Wharton School. I continue to research aspects of leadership regarding interpersonal ethics and behavior along with the practice of coaching and consulting. I started my coaching business in 1986 alongside my career as a professor. I specialize in leadership development, communications and ethics with senior executive men who need to enhance their leadership style and presence.

Any emerging industry trends?

Bullying in the workplace is a surging trend, a phenomenon we explore in our new book, The Bully-Proof Workplace. 65 million people are affected by bullying in the United States alone each year. No one wakes up thinking they're going to write a book about bullying, but when a law firm approached us to do some research on the topic, we saw just how prevalent it has become. Bullying is the repeated negative belittling of a person, without let up. This can lead to serious psychological, emotional, and sometimes health issues for the bullied person which can lead to increased healthcare costs for the employer. Many of the women we have coached have been bullied, and some of the men, so we see a growing need to give people the skills and tactics to effectively deal with the office bully. In fact, more women than men are bullied. Bullying is getting national and international attention in today’s news and we expect the spotlight will continue in the future to focus on poor leadership behavior from the very top of our government down to the leaders in our largest companies.

Greta's story in our book is a classic case of brutish bullying. Greta joined a company not suspecting that her new boss was a dominant and controlling communicator. She witnesses her colleagues being attacked verbally and soon becomes a target herself. Her boss is unable to tolerate any questioning of his opinions or strategies and has created a team of “yes” people.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

One new challenge we are facing in our coaching is the increasing need to do the coaching over Skype or phone. Our clients are global and leaders operating all over the world. We are now coaching virtually in Asia, India, Europe as well as in North America. People continue to be the most valuable commodity of companies and people leave their jobs primarily because of their bosses. We hope to make those bosses better, more empathetic and thinking holistically as they manage people with different customs, cultural values, and sensibilities across the world.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

Molly: When I started The Leader's Edge in 2001, there was no other company at the time that mostly served the leadership needs of senior women and their desire to advance. Statistics at the time showed that women were not moving into the executive jobs despite their education, credentials and time in the job market.  My book, Breaking into the Boy's Club, documents the stories of hundreds of women we have worked with over the years. With our merger with Peter's company, Leaders by Design, in 2006, we brought the male perspective into our work.

Peter: Our overall goal is to create a third way of leadership, one that allows men and women to work better and more collaboratively and cooperatively together. The first and original way of leadership was a masculine one because mostly men created the structure of management. A second way is more empathetic and collaborative, a leadership style that women predominantly bring to the workplace. We recommend a combination of the two styles to create an effective and collaborative leadership between the two genders.  

What's next for the Business in the near future?

We continue to grow our programs and services to meet our client needs. Companies want to develop their potential leaders in this competitive market to engage them in the strategic thinking necessary to support the vision and mission of their companies. Providing developmental opportunities to employees also builds company loyalty and cuts down on attrition. All of our coaches are certified in a very reliable assessment instrument, the Hogan, which allows us to help companies on-board new employees more effectively and gives employees credible feedback on their challenges under stress and the natural strengths they bring to the workplace. We also are experts on other leadership assessment tools which gives executives a quick and reliable look at their predominant leadership style which is very useful in individual coaching. More than 80% of our clients continue to use our services after 5 years which is a wonderful sign of their satisfaction with our services.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

Our key initiative is to listen to our clients and customize solutions that produce results. We have an ongoing partnership with KPMG, the global advisory firm. We run their Executive Leadership Institute for Women in eight US cities. This year-long leadership development program for senior women features four dynamic skills-building sessions combined with facilitated cohort coaching calls to review and discuss the practical application of new skills to the workplace. Participants receive instruction in leadership development areas that deliver immediate impact in the workplace.

We also run 6-month development programs for leaders to give them the necessary skills to better navigate their companies as well as numerous company sponsored leadership development and team building programs. Companies will bring us in house to provide coaching, assessment and skills building to a group of 15-25 emerging or high-potential leaders. Group sessions are customized around the developmental needs of the group and provide important networking opportunities to leaders who might not meet fellow leaders across divisions and departments of their companies. Our company also runs twice a year an open 6-month development program for managers and individual contributors who have been identified as future leaders of their organizations. These people meet their peers from other companies in the region and develop external networks that can be very valuable in their professional growth. 

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

It's always difficult to witness the struggles of women at senior levels who are still unable to break into the boy's club and who daily combat the prejudice that still exists in many corporate cultures. Many men still have an unconscious bias against women in the workplace and many still feel that women should stay at home. This can explain some of the increase in bullying as men get frustrated and perplexed by the different styles that women bring into the workplace. Both men and women are bullied, but women are bullied more. These findings compelled us to write our new book, The Bully-Proof Workplace.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

The ideal experience for a client is for them to discover what is holding them back in the workplace, as well as their blind spots about how they interact with others. We help them appreciate their unique leadership style by using several assessment instruments in our coaching protocol. We will interview 8-10 people in their organization who either are reports, peers or bosses and who have observed the client at work to gain information on how they’re perceived as leaders. This honest and anonymous feedback allows our clients to make the necessary changes in their styles and behaviors to be more successful. They also appreciate that solid feedback on their performance is a gift. The benefits of impactful coaching are numerous but a survey of all our clients indicated that over 60% had been promoted and over 70% were still with their companies.

How do you motivate others?

It's easier to de-motivate another person than to motivate them. So the best way to motivate someone from a managerial point of view is to create an environment whereby someone's natural intrinsic motivation is allowed to shine. Managers should give their employees the resources and appropriate training to do their jobs well, and incentivize them with the correct benefits and incentives, both monetary and non-monetary, as well as support them with assessing appropriate expectations.

Career advice to those in your industry?

We recommend that people, to ensure their career success, make sure they are working in a field and job that matches their interests and skills. They will be far more successful if they work with their strengths and interests, and, as someone once said, if you are in the right job, it will never feel like work.

Since leadership is a lifelong learning process, start your leadership libraries early. We recommend to start Leadership for Everyone and The Coachable Leader by Peter J. Dean, Good to Great by Jim Collins, Leading Quietly by Joseph L. Badaracco and Executive Presence by Sylvia Hewlett, and our own The Bully-Proof Workplace as well as Molly's book, Breaking into the Boy's Club. People will begin to notice your libraries as well as your knowledge you have gained by these and other leadership books that you use in your leadership practice.