For those who are regular readers of this platform, you might recognize the title of this edition as the way we sign off on all our online posts. I also use it to autograph the books we’ve written over the course of the last ten years. We also reference it in a different way when giving leadership presentations and speeches when we say that, while leadership is complex in so many ways, people ultimately want to be led well! But what do we mean when we say, “Lead Well”?
In a November 2021 article, “7 trends dominating the future of work in 2022”, Korn Ferry talks about 7 key trends that business leaders all need to be focused on. Because we’ve coached our clients through all these trends/challenges in our business coaching practice, we decided to use them as a catalyst to further discussion what is means to Lead Well.
While the article positions these trends as a reaction to the post-pandemic new reality, we believe they’ve always been areas of focus, just with different contexts in the past than the new reality of the present. So, without delay, here are some thoughts on what effective leadership can do to address each of these trends:
- Reinvention: Redesign to Stay Relevant ~ Truthfully, relevance didn’t become a thing because of the pandemic. Staying relevant in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business environment has always been critical to sustainable success. Two key points come to life based on our work with senior business leaders in both for-profits and non-profits alike. The first is staying relevant is a strategic initiative, period. To think otherwise is to abdicate the future of the business to others who do recognize the value of strategic thinking. The second is around the idea of innovation. The term is thrown around rather loosely in times like this. However, innovation is doing things different, it begins with leaders thinking differently. Leading well in this context reminds us of a favorite quote that says, “Discovery is seeing what everyone sees and thinking what nobody else has thought.”
- Scarcity: Survive the Big Quit ~ While it is no secret the talent market has created quite the churn in the marketplace, what still seems to be a secret is why the big quit is affecting so many industries in so many markets. This takes us back to a simple question we routinely ask our clients, “Why would someone work for you/follow you/work here?” Leading well begins with defining and modelling the organizational culture to answer that question. If followers feel their leaders are taking them for granted, they will leave. The good news is we see plenty examples of leading well in this regard as more organizations invest in their core talent while they continue to solidify their culture for sustainable growth
- Individuality: Make Business Personal ~ One of the greatest leadership challenges is accepting the notion that the leader needs to adapt to where each of their followers are to tap into the full potential each follower brings to the team. Not a week goes by that we are coaching to this key point, especially around effective communications. While it is also true that we all adapt to our leader’s style, leading well is the recognition that each follower has a unique motivational profile that gives effective leaders the advantage!
- Inclusivity: Unleash the Power of All ~ In our most recent book, “Finding the Missing Piece”, we discuss the importance of inclusion as the point of entry to achieving even a basic level of psychological safety. Leading well is focusing on the creation of an inclusive culture and climate in the organization and viewing diversity through the lens of psychometrics more so than demographics. Leading well welcomes and endorses diverse attitudes as a precursor to unleashing the power of all to achieve a truly inclusive culture!
- Vitality: Beat Burnout ~ According to the Korn Ferry report, 89% of professionals say they’re more burned out now than at the start of the pandemic. Just last month, we wrote about burnout from the perspective of what the organization can do to mitigate the effects of burnout. The only thing we would add here is leaders themselves must be self-aware of their own signs of managing the demands of leadership. Leading well shows in leaders who are leading themselves well and who are aware of the signs before they become ineffective!
- Sustainability: Shape the Smarter Future ~ In every one of our, “Missing Piece” books we use the word sustainable. It is a deliberate focus on the need to lead well, not just in one or two business cycles, but for the foreseeable future. Whether the leader approaches sustainability from an internal CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) or an external ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) point of view, leading well creates an organization that is adaptable to changing times. Leading well is creating an organization structure providing the right people, processes, and tools to enable the organization to stay relevant (See also point #1)!
- Accountability: Stand By What You Do ~ One of the biggest challenges we see when coaching leaders in this context is helping them understand the difference between accountability and responsibility as they are used interchangeably in error. We simplify it down to being responsible for tasks and accountable to people. The scenario we use is being in a meeting where everyone in the meeting has absolutely done what they were responsible for, yet the desired outcomes and results were not achieved. To lead well is to own the desired outcomes above and beyond ensuring the tasks were accomplished. Leading well also means holding others accountable to the teams they are part of and especially those they lead!
To be clear, this is not one of those, “Do these seven things and you will be an effective leader” kind of post. Rather, it illustrates what leading well can look like against some of the prevailing workplace trends today’s leaders are contending with. To lead well is to understand the constant ebb and flow of what it means to be relevant, adapting to what follower expectations are in the new reality and being able to hold themselves and their organization accountable to being there and withstanding the forces of change. Because, when all is said and done, followers want to be led well!
How are you leading well and how do you know? If you don’t know, we can help!