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3 Critical Roles Future Leaders Must Play … and They’re Not What You Think

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3 Critical Roles Future Leaders Must Play … and They’re Not What You Think

“People don’t quit bad organisations, they quit bad leaders” – every person who’s ever left a company

In my last blog, I wrote about a significant paradigm shift that is happening in how leaders lead. Our future leaders will and must lead in a more human way, one that engages talent at all levels of the organisation and empowers them to be at their best and deliver unimaginable results.  Mediocre results just aren’t enough to compete on the global competitive stage. How many large organisations are struggling to unlock value and innovate quickly? Organisations today must strive for progress, not perfection. 

PwC Netherlands’s 2017 report “Human Value in the Digital Age” points to a key shift in business performance – purpose and values driven organisations are already outperforming “traditional” organisations. These organisations have learned that their purpose, value, and culture are the key strategic levers that drive their commercial success.  And according to PwC’s study, 92% of global CEOs agree that a strong corporate purpose is important. 

In a world of digitisation and competition, human skills become the differentiator. The same report goes on to cite “Leadership” as the most important skill in future jobs, according to global CEOs.  It’s time to take leadership more seriously and really get under the hood of how we can lead better. The way we lead our people has been subtely shifting like tectonic plates underneath us, and the role of leadership is becoming less clear to many people who hold this privileged position and are leading amidst change. So the question is, 

What role does leadership most critically need to play in our organisation?

Has your organisation defined leadership in a way that future proofs leaders to meet the current and increasing demands of change, complexity, and ‘messy’ human interactions? Or has your organisation taken the approach of many others in the past by defining corporate values (aka buzz words on a page) with a list of expertly crafted behaviours and/or competencies that each leader is evaluated against? And is it realistic that we, as human beings, deliver against all of these competencies? 

Maybe it’s time to shed some light onto what’s most important to focus on as leadership roles evolve in the workplace. Because the harsh reality is that most of us know deep down inside that technical expertise and achieving results have become table stakes.  It will take some different (human) skills to differentiate our organisations, and this is where the next generation of leadership can shine. 

“In the future, performance reviews, compensation models, and job markets will need to adjust to emphasise human values, rather than only the technocratic and cognitive elements that can be done better by computers.” (PwC,Netherlands)

Related: Humanistic Leadership: a New Era of Leadership Has Begun

So, departing from the corporate norm of long checklists, attributes, and competencies, here are 3 roles every leader must play in the future world of work, no matter what industry, geography, size. 

Leaders must: 

1.    Create Safety – as the nature of the workforce becomes increasingly diverse (in thought, background, skills, experience, age, ethnicity, gender, and culture) great leaders focus on creating safety to bring different people with different ideas together to explore unknown territories, challenge assumptions, and create unprecedented value. Great leaders must take deliberate action to bring this diversity together and enable all the voices at the table to unlock the team’s collective potential and intelligence. 

2.    Create Simplicity – every leader I speak to these days is delivering against a mandate to “do more with less”. However, most leaders have not taken the necessary steps to truly act in this way. Rather, most are simply just doing more. The rise of anxiety, depression, and illness in the workplace is increasing. Our millenial workforce is the most anxiousworkforce in the history of the workplace (especially millenial women). With the pace of change at work, people are overwhelmed, and leaders must be hyper focused on creating simplicity. This means getting focused on priorities, setting clear boundaries, and encouraging very transparent dialogues with team members to communicate clearly around what is/is not important. This type of leadership requires leaders to be more disciplined than ever. Because as we all know, it’s much more difficult to work smarter than harder. 

3.    Create Tranquility – great leaders encourage ‘being’ over ‘doing’ and value the action of “switching off”. Science shows that innovative ideas happen when the brain’s more rested and in a theta state. This level of “non-thinking” is actually more conducive to accessing creativity and imagination. This explains why some of our best ideas come when we are in the shower or driving. Creating a state of tranquility, or a calm amidst the storm is imperative to organisations who seek innovation. Moreover, safety and simplicity exponentially thrive in an environment of tranquility, making these three roles extremely interdependent on one another.

If you step back and reflect, our current way of operating reinforces the very workplace issues organisations have been trying to break for decades now. More innovation, more efficiency, less cost has been the outcomes every leader has chased without enough success. Rather, the short term solution is pure human will (and putting in the time, energy, and spirit to muscle through to achieve results). This way of operating is not sustainable; our muscles are fatiguing, and it serves as a call to action to every leader to commit to doing it differently before our muscles collapse. 

And differently isn’t easy. It requires taking action that directly opposes some of our current beliefs. If we reframe these beliefs, we can achieve clear benefits:

Yes, divergent ideas amongst different people actually is a great use of time to achieve innovation (the more we diverge, the more quickly we can converge into action). Yes, saying no and doing less actually is more valuable to everyone in the long run and contributes to increased productivity (think about the times you’ve burnt out and how long it took you to get back up in running and conversely, the times you felt energised and at your best and how productive you were in those moments). And finally, yes, taking breaks and switching off can actually lead to more creative ideas (that aha moment while taking a walk). 

If you’ve known all of this and still aren’t sure how to move forward, contact us or click here to read the descriptions of the experiential learning programs Humans Who Lead delivers to create leaders for the future – Unlocking Team Potential, Leaders as Facilitators, and Human Conversations are all ways to start future proofing your leadership skills to create more safety, simplicity, and tranquility in how we as human beings thrive in the workplace. 

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