As we come to end of the year, this is a good time to reflect on some of the key leadership themes that have captured my attention. It is easy to pick on new practices or other ideals, but they tend to come and go. Instead, these are themes that will be with us for a long time to come. They are shaping how we need to lead and manage going forward.
Four key themes
- Increasing complexity. With more access to data and an increasing pace of change our lives are becoming more complex. We experience this as creating more uncertainty. What worked in the past may not, and most probably won’t, work in future. Some of my clients believe this is a passing phase. It isn’t, it is the new norm and we need a new leadership style to match.
- Speed of learning is most important. When we are surrounded by uncertainty, the best we can do is learn fast. This requires a new orientation and style of leadership. We call it Adaptive Leadership. Today’s leaders need to be able to adapt quickly to align with what they are facing. Relying on traditional command and control practices will lead to frustration.
- Collaboration and lateral influence are key. Speed of learning is a factor of your network and its effectiveness. You must be able to sense what is going on and respond appropriately. If you only rely on hierarchy, you are limiting your sources. You most likely will be told what others think you want to hear. You need to know what you don’t expect to hear. Per Tom Peters, “don’t focus on sucking up, you need to suck across”.
- Self-awareness and soft skills are the key to the above. Adaptive leadership requires exceptional communication and relationship skills. The leaders I work with have very strong technical skills and they rarely need more of them. Their limiter is their soft skills. It is their ability to build strong relationships where conflict is an essential source of possibility. The best leaders are sought out by those around them. They know they can be trusted and are a source of mutual value.
We need to learn fast!
As I mentioned above, I am convinced these themes are here to stay. I hope a year from now, this is obvious, but at the moment, our understanding of the above is the exception rather than norm. Complexity and the associated uncertainty are the new normal. We need to learn fast!