The world is changing and that change is accelerating.
What was expected of leaders 20 or even 5 years ago is not necessarily relevant any more. New business and organisational challenges, new world challenges (lack of resources, changing political climate, greater global collaboration) and new generations with new expectations are some of the reasons why the concept of Leadership needs to evolve fast – in order to meet the demands of a fast-moving future.
Leadership – the art of Enablement
Leadership, after all, is the function of enabling others to perform. A CEO is not just a Chief Executive Officer, he/she is also a Chief Enabling Officer. And the enabling responsibilities trickle through to all leaders in an organisation. And if you want to enable people to perform in a fast-changing environment, you need to keep developing your enabling (=leadership) skills to make this possible. So if you are not already, you will need to become a (Chief) Enabling Officer.
When it comes to development, many leaders develop as and when needed, but this reactive response is not enough if you want to continue to be truly successful. You need to take a proactive approach and develop your leadership abilities continously. Leaders need to keep learning and encouraging others to do the same. Many leaders are challenged by this as they feel they are so busy anyway – just doing their job - that taking time for learning is hard. Leadership IS the job and leaders need to stop having the 'busy bug' and realise this critical fact. Having said that, many leaders are also starting to realise that learning happens every day, naturally, when they stay open to receiving learning in daily situations and interactions.
Leadership IS the job and leaders need to stop having the 'busy bug' and realise this critical fact
So why is leadership changing right now?
There are many reasons; the high speed of change overall, globalisation, the increasing expectancy on organsations and leaders to be transparent in their operations, the expectations of new generations, the push and expectation for Sustainability in business, as well as the 'war for employees' – the need for organisations to attract, retain and engage the best employees.
The 'new' leadership competencies and how to develop them
This changing leadership reality, screams out for certain competencies. They may not be new per se, but they are assuredly becoming more important and relevant than ever.
Observing, listening, understanding. Being self aware (taking control of your impact on others) and socially aware (understanding other people, situations, political undertones).
Being curious and open-minded. Recognising that things are changing all the time, so what you knew (to be true), may already have changed. This may sound easy, but letting go of strongly held beliefs can take some work.
Leading virtually (individuals and teams), where face to face interaction is not possible.
Being creative wtih communication. We are all inundated with information – to reach people with your messages and be heard, you will need to break out of tired communication habits and get creative. In a world of info overload you need to stand out, your impact needs to be greater. That means you need to spend more time thinking of the HOW you deliver your message as well as the content.
Taking a long-term, holistic view and managing complexity. Assessing impact of actions and behaviours from a short- and long-term perspective, across all internal and external stakeholders.
Sharing wisdom. And getting others to do the same. No one has all the answers, so success will be dependent on generous, open sharing from everyone. When wisdom (knowledge, insight and experience) is shared and meets the wisdom of others, it’s mulitplied. For example, consider finding a senior 'buddy' who can creatively challenge and support you and vice versa – so that you can both grow and develop.
Creating a learning environment. Making your team members embrace the idea of continuous learning too, by role modeling learning, encouraging and even facilitating learning at work. We are all learning every day if you are not then you are not going anywhere. As a leader, start that culture today.
Developing effective teams (fast!). In a world where people are changing jobs more frequently, it can be tempting not to bother with building a team, but getting a team working together is still worth doing. You also give them a transportable team skillset which they can take with them.
Using the power of teams. Effective teams can achieve more together than they can individually. A sales team we know, were able to double their sales in just ONE year after they started working more closely together, generously sharing ideas and strategies, letting them create better sales strategies.
Every single day offers opportunities for learning, for challenging the status quo – the key is to look for them. A challenging meeting, where you are not able to sell your idea, product or service to someone can be such an opportunity. Reflect afterwards: what could I have done differently? What was important to them that I missed to notice? Could I have listened more, asked more questions? This takes time, but that investment of time will reap benefits.
What do you think is most important for you specifically to learn/develop right now to take a proactive approach in futureproofing your leadership? And how will you make it happen? A word of advice; don’t just make a long 'to do' list. Reflect and choose wisely how you spend your time. And maybe you should start a 'to be' list – as leadership is the act of influencing others.