Leadership is constantly evolving. What was needed in the past is very different to what is needed today and this recent move to remote working has created yet another shift. Two main routes into leadership are either through a management development programme or move up the corporate ladder.
Defining leadership programmes based on well-respected theories and proven strategies has been evolving to factor in the needs and expectations of the next generations in our fast-paced world. Yet how often do we check in on our own leadership style and ask, “How does my leadership need to change to meet today’s needs and what might be needed tomorrow?”.
Others don’t set out to become a leader and just found themselves there, taking a more intuitive approach. Whichever way they get there the success of a leader is defined by the people they lead. If they are motivated, energised by their work and committed to the team/company then they are a good leader.
Over the last twenty years I’ve been privileged to guide and coach leaders on their development journeys. The best I have come across have certain traits in common; they embrace change with the mindset that every day is a school day, they are driven to achieve their goals, which they keep stretching, they get to know the individuals within their teams and treat them with respect, they are humble and most of all they enjoy what they do.
Having a great leader encourages high performance. Whenever I see a high performing team in action, it’s awe-inspiring. Nothing grates, energy flows from one person to the next, seamlessly. Interestingly they don’t notice themselves that they are in a ‘state of team-flow’.
They make it look so easy, yet I know that a lot of effort, practice and honest communication – and probably healthy conflict – has gone on to create that level of performance. When everyone knows their role and boundaries have been clearly defined, they are all committed to the same goal and everyone is trusted. That’s when it clicks.
Once you have seen a high-performing team in action the more likely you are to become part of one. It’s like the three-minute mile, once Sir Roger Bannister broke the record in 1954 countless athletes have gone on to improve upon it. He raised the bar and showed them it was possible. I would like to think that our future leaders can create this state of high performance on a regular basis and this becomes part of what is expected as standard across all industry sectors.
For companies that were operating in traditional 9-5 office-based roles, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it some positive new ways of working. Flexible working leads to an increase in the quality of thinking and productivity. People have more time and energy due to no commutes, meals at home and quality time with friends and family. All of this has to be good for business.
I have coached leaders with global teams who spent countless hours each month in airport lounges. I found that this lifestyle was only manageable for about 10 months before the cracks started to show.
At that point it was either their physical or mental health that would start to be affected, in some cases both. It was only when we stop do we realise the manic pace of life that we had become accustomed to. Balance is the key as short bursts of non-stop followed by a steady pace is more sustainable. Leaders have a responsibility to factor this in so that they don’t drive their teams to the point of burnout.
The tables have turned in recruitment with the emphasis now on how we attract and retain top talent.
“ In order to do this, we need to continue to morph and become what they are looking for. They want to be part of a successful business whose leaders inspire them.”
They want their careers to be meaningful, to be part of a diverse and inclusive team, to have a healthy work life balance, to contribute to society whilst being mindful of the environment.
Everything the current workforce generation is coming to expect as a base line would be considered inconceivable by past generations. A lot to ask, but why not?
To be respectful, honest, inclusive and inspirational are the ingredients of tomorrow’s leader; not forgetting a good knowledge of IT to harness remote working skills. It’s this constant effort on self-development and self-awareness that allows the modern leader to role model the behaviours and values they want to see in the business. Thankfully gone are the days of do what I say, not what I do…
Tomorrow’s leaders will also become more mindful of how their company impacts on society, taking responsibility for their part in creating the world that we want to live in.