The Future of Leadership is Not One Size Fits All
So, what does it take to manage to these hyper-connected, interdependent forces and other factors that are continuing to expand and influence every facet of our businesses? Stop looking for a silver bullet solution because there are none that work. There is no one size fits all model of leadership that will ensure successful future leadership. Simple, plug and play solutions are generally short-lived and abandoned long before they can ever be even a little effective in building your organization.
I am amazed at the number of leaders who say they want to learn and grow their leadership but when approached about making changes or dealing with internal change they back off and huddle back into their comfort zones. It may be tough to tackle but will be much easier now than later.
Let’s look at some of the top issues leaders face today:
Leaders can lack flexibility & adaptability.
We must learn to be flexible and adapt in a very proactive and intentional way at all levels but most importantly, we need leaders who help us do that. They need to provide working examples of how it can be done effectively, efficiently and with grace. Under the older models of leadership, the whole premise was based on being rigid and inflexible top down logic so you can see the conflict right away.
Leaders can have issues with accountability:
Marlene Chism, in her book, “No-Drama Leadership” discusses this at length and she points out a number for red flags that indicate the problem exists. She also outlines reasons leaders struggle with responsibility and accountability today. Below are four highlighted by Chism:
1. Leaders not understanding the distinction between responsibility and accountability.
One of the primary reasons many struggle is they fail to understand the distinction between being responsible and being accountable. Responsibility comes from the heart and accountability from the head. You accept responsibility, it’s intrinsic, but accountability is extrinsic, it can feel forced on you, make you feel that being held accountable suggests punishment and blame.
2. Leaders not having sufficient support or resources
Resistance can be established if leaders, who have responsibility for a task, feel they do not have sufficient support or resources. This is further complicated if they are being measured on their effectiveness and they’re not confident they can accomplish the job due to these factors. If they feel they have not been supplied the necessary support or resources to be successful, rather than finding a way to make it happen, they will often skirt the accountability by pointing out the deficiencies.
3. Leaders have a skill gap
Many employees today will say they have witnessed leaders at all levels in their organizations who didn’t respond to communications, missed commitments, and made promises that weren’t fulfilled unless they were reminded again and again. Chism indicates that these patterns indicate a potential problem with accountability due to not having the right skill set to be effective.
4. Leaders may lack discipline
There are times where leaders are given too much power, and because of no accountability they lose awareness of their own lack of discipline, which just exasperates the bad examples deeper into the organization. If allowed to grow this can destroy a corporate culture.
Most leadership structures today are still outdated:
Much leadership thinking today is simplistic and anchored to the past. Leadership is complex, contradictory, paradoxical, and difficult. If it were as simple as some suggest, we’d have a ton of great leaders to lead us.
For us to innovate and adapt for the dramatic changes on the horizon, leaders need to help pave the way, make it easier and less threatening to change. They need to demonstrate that we can link needed change to traditional values. If we can do that then we can reclaim what is one of our fundamental truths and change can be less threatening and more welcome.
I propose that moving forward, leadership will always be a hybrid model, capable of adapting, bending and leveraging the best of all skills, values and processes in each niche where it is required.
There are very few industries or situations where the old form of leadership focused on the hero is necessary, in fact in many arenas, I believe it is a detriment to the sustainable growth of the business if left in place.
This was also referred to as the command & control model which we used to call the “great man” theory. This model ascribes the power and focus on the leaders in all situations. True heroes are getting harder to find because many in these roles are self-centered and focused on short-term business practices.
Leaders misunderstand the state of power today?
We can no longer solve the problems of our companies by merely acting as the superior company, i.e., fake it until you make it. Trust has evaporated to an all-time low so we need to find ways to leverage what power is left.
All serious global problems, from the environment, to pandemics, to nuclear proliferation, to security, all require us to collaborate with other like-minded leaders to leverage our limited power, resources and skills to create a group of enhanced over-comers.
Power is becoming more and more fragmented, more diffuse. There is more sharing of power in the world today, no longer do unilateral exhibitions of power have the same impact. That may seem appealing but it really has become an antique and more of a relic. Leaders in the future need to think anew about how they can accomplish their goals by sharing and leveraging power.
What are the critical leadership skills for the future?
Here are my dozen critical skills for future leaders:
1. Sound Judgment — This is the ability to objectively analyze a situation and develop a workable, ethical solution that can be accomplished to the benefit of all stakeholders. The Lack of sound judgement is greatest cause of failure.
2. Empathy — the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions, or experience of others. Empathy is more than simple sympathy. A person who exhibits empathy can effectively deal with difficult issues and create solutions that many people can support.
3. Adaptability — Adaptable leadership is about being ready for change. While you may have an end-goal and a basic strategy to reach it, the path that you plan to take is not set in stone. This allows appropriate responses to the demands of the moment. Detours and unforeseen circumstances are welcomed and viewed as opportunities. Adaptable leaders make the most of such change and take advantage of variety. Tie vision together for people and adapt as necessary.
4. Emotional Intelligence — is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, and interact with those of the people around you. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence know what they’re feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people.
5. Transparency — refers to leaders who are sharing as much as possible, encouraging questions, showing people what they see and understand the need for timing. They also share consistently, lead from their own values, open to share about themselves and are always authentic or real.
6. Flexibility — work flexibility is where a leader can make or break a company. Being flexible is good for your people in terms of wellness and family relationships, being flexible is good for society because it allows for employees to have time for outside help for others and lastly flexibility is good for business in that happy employees usually become great ambassadors with your customers. The key in making flexibility work is in developing expectations for delivery standards where flexibility is allowed and knowing where it does not work.
7. Cognitive Skills — usually refers to the realm of the intelligence sphere (IQ), i.e., literacy, numeracy and problem solving skills, non-cognitive skills refer to items such as perseverance, social trust and willingness to learn
8. Intentionality — leaders must have purpose in everything they do. Merely reacting to what has happened, especially problems, is not leadership. Instead, effective leaders consider the factors of a given situation, analyze the details, and generate a response that fulfills purposes for the organization and for the individuals involved. The principle of intentional leadership is important when responding to problems and when being proactive in organizational improvement.
9. Connection skills — Commitment management — many leaders communicate but few truly connect with peers, associates or suppliers. Connection involves attitudes, language and behaviors that can allow for a solid connection between the leader and others. Commitment management is part of this realm because your consistency in meeting your commitments goes a long way in establishing a solid connection between parties.
10. Contextual intelligence. — the ability to understand the limits of our knowledge and to adapt that knowledge to an environment different from the one in which it was developed.
11. Understand power — both its uses and its limitations and how to use to empower secondary levels of leaders. Remember: Leadership is art &rocket science so it requires persistence, integrity and generosity. People who are empowered are generally more productive, supportive and engaged in the workplace.
12. Self-awareness- Leaders comfortable within their own skin, who know themselves and the world, know change, and know how to mobilize, inspire, and motivate others, who lead by example — such leadership can only come from someone who is centered and self-aware.
The model of leadership that best serves the needs of the future is not gender specific, in fact, I believe it is gender neutral. The skills listed above will touch on every issue we discussed in the earlier part of this article.
However, the best way to develop the skills necessary to lead into the future is:
- Live life fully in the present,
- Travel, ask questions, diversify,
- Listen to people’s stories,
- Develop your own stories,
- Read, read some more,
- Serve & empower others,
- Be humble, be authentic
- Dream big, Dream inclusive
- Maintain your values and
- Serve your higher purpose.
If you would like to create this in your organization today, please check out my website at Transformative Leadership Group or call me at 630–454–4821.