“The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old...

Leadership-Direction How well are you and your leaders focused on building the new?

...but on building the new.”

A hot topic in social media and around the business community, both for-profit and non-profit is the discussion around how to structure the workforce in the new reality. Questions abound around bringing employees back to the office full time, part time, not at all and what are the ramifications of these options on how the business continues to run and how leaders effectively lead. On multiple LinkedIn discussions, we’ve posted that those leaders who can only manage effectively when their team is back in the office as it was pre-pandemic are insecure and need to reflect on why they are only confident leading under those conditions in this new reality. Of course, those comments were mostly met by agreement and a few disagreements, even one challenging our credentials to even make the comment in the first place.

Our underlying premise, and the reason for the title quote attributed to the character Socrates (not the Greek philosopher) in the Dan Millman book “Way of the Peaceful Warrior”, is that the new reality calls for new attitudes and behaviors around what it takes to be an effective 21st Century leader. To set the stage, we pulled multiple definitions of leadership from a text we use to teach leadership to graduate students. Early in the first chapter of the text “Leadership, Enhancing the Lessons of Experience”, co-authors Gordy Curphy, Richard Hughes and Robert Ginnett, offer eight different documented definitions of leadership owning to the complexity of the topic and the context in which the definition is created. They are:

  1. “The process in which an agent induces a subordinate to behave in a desired manner”
  2. “Directing and coordinating the work of group members”
  3. “An interpersonal relation in which others comply because they want to, not because they have to”
  4. “The process of influencing an organized group toward accomplishing its goals”
  5. “Actions that focus resources to create desirable opportunities”
  6. “Create conditions for a team to be effective”
  7. The ability to engage employees, the ability to build teams, and the ability to achieve results; the first two represent the how and the latter the what of leadership”
  8. “A complex form of social problem-solving”

Our own definition of leadership is “Setting goals and achieving desired results, over and over again” which most closely resembles definition seven above. The obvious point is that there is no one definition of leadership. The second point relating directly to this article is that nowhere in any of the definitions is there a reference for where leadership is best accomplished!

It is now a widely held belief that some degree of a hybrid workplace is here to stay. Granted, some business must be done by people at their place of work. However, that does not imply business is only conducted from 8:00 to 5:00 and only on weekdays. As the 21st Century workforce migrates to a more service-based, project-based, and knowledge-based work economy, so too the leadership attitudes and behaviors must shift to accommodate the migration.

We now operate in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business environment. The first leadership attitude necessary to effectively lead in this environment is being comfortable with these conditions as part of the new reality. By doing so, leaders can focus on what they can control and what they can accomplish in these conditions rather than lamenting what they can’t do and what they can’t control. We hear the terms “anxious” and “anxiety” quite a bit in our coaching practice. While these are real human emotions and should not be ignored, there is no evidence that a high level of anxiety changes the future in a positive way!

The second leadership attitude we see influencing effective leadership in this new reality is a focus on desired results versus familiar activities. We frequently hear some variation of “we're too busy” in our coaching conversations either referring to the current workload of the person we are speaking with or the leader hearing it from their team without knowing how to respond to it. Truth is, everyone is busy so the statement itself matters little. Instead, the question becomes, “Busy doing what?” asked through the lens of how the busyness activities are achieving desired results. Here we find the workforce possibly doing what they’ve always done without realizing it is either ineffective in the new reality or simply does not need to be done at all!

In the most recent issue of Inc. Magazine that features the Inc. 5000 fastest growing companies in America, the CEOs of those companies were surveyed across various topics related to this new reality. 49% said they are increasing their employee’s ability to work from home while 15% said they will do more leadership development and succession planning. If more employees are working remote, it makes sense an increase in leadership development of new leadership attitudes and behaviors leads to more confident and effective leaders. This post is not about what the right working structure for your business should be. It is about exercising effective leadership in deciding what that should be!

How well are you and your leaders focused on building the new? If you are not sure, we can help.

Lead Well!

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Sunday, 21 April 2024