This time of year is often associated with resolutions or the idea that changes to what has been the past are required. For me, the idea that a nominal date such as January 1st should be the trigger for self-review and improvement is somewhat skewed. The concept of self-awareness and subsequent desire to be as capable and self-aware as possible is an ongoing effort, or at least, it should be. When it comes to leadership, this ideal is as relevant as ever. As individuals and employees we should feel comfortable with this concept, although I recognise the reality is often somewhat different. Now is a good time to have a look at leadership in general and specifically review how you as a leader are performing against current benchmarks and needs, not those rooted in the past.
What has altered in leadership for 2014?
The point that culture and society is evolving means that we as leaders need to keep abreast of cultural, societal, organisational behaviour and workplace adjustments. We are judged on many things including our ability to relate to people and influence others. This is a significant change in leadership principles from the past. The idea of a directorial, aggressive leader belongs in the past. This does not mean that leadership has become ‘soft’; more that the most effective leaders are able to flex their style as required. It is the leader’s responsibility to engage and flex, particularly in the early stages of a relationship. The concept of our team members and peers having to bend to our style as leaders is antiquated and out of step with the generational expectations and changes that are occurring.
Trends emerge through genuine demand (and sometimes through good marketing), nevertheless at its core, the concept of leadership and its effect remains unchanged.
Although the bold statement made above is something I believe in its simplest form, there are necessities of leadership that have become more prominent and/or need to be reaffirmed in the current environment, including:
- The concept that leadership is earned rather than given with a title has become a reality for many. Few people are prepared to tolerate poor leadership or work for someone who they do not have some connection with, at least in part. Expectations are higher and tolerance is lower.
- Ultimately, people are still looking for similar things in and out of work that they were in the past. What has changed is both the awareness of what it could be and preparedness to seek it out. Unfortunately I still see many people putting up with aspects of work and personal relationships that they are dissatisfied with, but again, expectations are shifting.
- The idea of mindfulness is gaining momentum, particularly when associated with the essence of balance and not feeling overwhelmed by the holistic needs of leading. Being ‘in the moment’ and strengthening abilities to truly listen and connect with your peers and workmates has always been important, however greater research and profile re the brain and how it works is adding value to our knowledge around about the benefits of being mindful.
- Being an effective leader requires effort. That has always been the case and always will be! There is no short-cut or silver bullet to leadership learning, as it requires trial, error, success and failure which only comes by being prepared to step out of your comfort zone and take on leadership responsibility in practice.
- The degree to which a person is persistent and accountable are two of the traits I see as key reasons for success and failure in leaders I have worked with in recent years.
- Change is now the norm. For those leaders who are unable or unwilling to accept change, the current environment is particularly difficult. For those who actively or passively resist change, the days are numbered and work is often stressful. Leader’s who genuinely embrace change, can influence others appropriately and display their value and worth are witnessing that this is their time.
- Emotional Intelligence (EI) and self-awareness are becoming more accepted as essential elements of leadership rather than ‘nice to haves’. Those who are truly comfortable with who they are and how they impact others are more likely to be accountable and accepting of their failures, whilst sharing the successes and achievements through their actions as well as words. Volumes of information have been written about the benefits of EI in leadership and life generally. Leaders who are intuitively able to or have learned the importance of EI are likely to feel the benefits within the current work environment.
What do you think – has the leadership concept and leadership in practice changed in recent years? Will it need to change for the future?