Leading in a world that will not stand still
There you stand. Seemingly on stable ground. And then the world shifts.
You are untethered.
It takes effort, but you stabilize yourself and your team.
And then the world shifts around you, yet again.
This is leadership.
As leaders, how do we need to be?
As we come to the mindful realization that we control very little, and command even less, the definition of what it means to lead changes.
Much of what we’ve been trained to do as leaders is no longer enough — linear thinking, defining decision rights, hierarchical management practices, optimization strategies, process, change management. All necessary, none sufficient.
So what is the missing ingredient?
Over the past two decades at SYPartners, we’ve been learning from, and inventing with, some of the world’s most successful companies and organizations — as they confront waves of change and therefore start to view the abilities of constantly adapting, constantly becoming a better version of oneself, perpetually transforming as the real work of leadership.
Starbucks. Apple. AARP. IBM. Girl Effect. Hyatt. The Future Project. Facebook.
It’s now more important than ever to develop leaders who can lead into the unknown. At the core, these leaders’ core talent is to envision a future that does not exist — and then skillfully and artfully arrange all the elements to make that future a powerful reality.
There are many new skills required. Here are a few that we believe are worth cultivating:
Leaders who are deeply human-centered in their approach — compassionate, empathetic, mindful, and present, in addition to analytical, rational, and outcomes-oriented. In an era of everything being about data, humanity matters. Being able to bring your full self to the act of leadership makes it possible for others to do the same.
Leaders who communicate authentically — confronting fear, and replacing it with open-heartedness. Expressing ideas that inspire a vivid picture of the future (especially if the path to getting there is long and complex). Finding a shared narrative and shared agenda that people find meaning in. These are no longer nice-to-have skills — they are mandatory.
Leaders who draw on creativity, every day — interestingly, and oddly, we are never trained in how to be creative. In our own practice, we have come to realize that creativity is a skill — it can be trained for, nurtured, and mastered. In a world that is highly volatile, the more creativity a leader can bring, the more opportunities she can open up for her team.
Leaders who build optimism—helping others to see possibility. Change can be destructive on the psyche. Teams can get flattened by it. Lost in it. But it depends largely on mindset. Because the opposite can also be true: Change can help people grow, achieve more of their aspirations, bring out talent the team didn’t know it had. Leaders who instill optimism — and inspire agency — are more valuable than ever.
The new tools: Leadfully
Over the past year, many of us at SYPartners have been working on a new offering.
We are trying to fill the missing curricula for leaders today.
Leadfully is a new platform that helps leaders build the skills to lead into an unknown future. Leadfully’s content, tools (including a new leadership assessment), and events start with where you are on your journey as a leader, and help you take daily bite-size steps toward becoming a true 21st-century leader.
And for leaders hungry to accelerate their journey, Leadfully Advising is designed to help individuals take a giant step forward and make new behaviors stick.
For those of you who have been looking for new inspirations, I encourage you to take a look.
The power of each of us
In a world with monumental forces at play, we have to re-conceptualize our roles as leaders.
I go back to the wisdom of Buckminster Fuller, who reflected on what one person can do:
“Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Elizabeth — the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab. It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all.
So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab.
Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said, ‘Call me Trim Tab.’”
Can you be that trim tab for your organization?
Can you be that trim tab for something you want to create?
Can you be that trim tab for what this nation — and the world — needs now?
Will you lead fully?