Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Q&A with Marisa and Simon Cleveland




Marisa and Simon Cleveland are the authors of the new book There Is No Box: A Practical Guide for the Relatable Leader. Simon Cleveland lectures at Johns Hopkins University, and Marisa Cleveland is the executive director for The Seymour Agency.


Q: What inspired you both to write this book, and how did you collaborate on the project?


A: Thanks so much for having us here! We share a deep interest in leadership and helping others on their path, and the inspiration for this book came in bits and pieces over time and after working with students in today’s global economy and digital landscape. In a world of perpetual change, the way leaders relate to each other and to their teams stood out as a critical aspect of the human experience.


We collaborated on this project by creating a project plan and used a Gantt chart for the timeline. We outlined the book and then drafted and revised the chapters each week.


Q: The book focuses on the idea of “relatable leadership.” What are the most important ways someone can become a relatable leader, and how did you come up with your definition of “relatable”?


A: There are five ways leaders can cultivate their relatability, and the most important way someone can become a relatable leader is by being open to new experiences. The definition of relatable in terms of leadership is expanded from the Merriam-Webster definition of relatable.

We came up with this term after studying leaders and discovering that those leaders who understood different people’s perspectives were also the ones we could relate to, so not only are relatable leaders able to relate to someone else, but they’re able to be related to by others.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: The title, There Is No Box, was chosen after we decided to make the time to write the book we felt was needed right now. To us, There Is No Box means not settling for what others have chosen as the default standard. It means that instead of doubting yourself when you wonder if you could do something that might seem out of reach, you think why not?


Q: Can any reader benefit from the book, or are there particular professions or jobs that might lend themselves better to your framework?


A: This book is for everyone, since a core component of this book is the concept that we are the CEOs of our lives. Emerging and established leaders interested in bringing value to the lives of others will benefit from this book, as well as those who are still figuring out where they fit within this society.


We believe leaders are capable of improving the human condition, and great leaders are capable of generating a joy and love for life among those who get to work with them.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: By special request, we are working on developing a leadership development training program to guide interested leaders through the five ways to cultivate their relatability. Simon has also developed an interest in running and is challenging himself to make time to improve his endurance.   


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: In There Is No Box, we stress the importance that you, the reader, are the CEO of your own life. A Gallup study showed that large organizations typically have one manager to 10 employees. This means that one individual has a chance to influence the lives of at least 10 people on a daily basis.


For us, this is important because this power can result in a positive impact only if the individual cares about these people. For us, a leader’s desire to have a positive impact on the lives of others is the key to embracing relatability as the leadership competency in today’s workforce.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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