30 Aug Influence
How many of you feel comfortable with calling yourself a leader?
It’s a sad fact that many people seem unable to recognise their leadership capabilities. We appear to have made leadership something bigger than us, something beyond us. We identify leadership qualities in only a few, but the fact is we are all capable of demonstrating leadership in our day-to-day lives.
We commonly think of leaders as strong personalities who imprint their will on organisations. Today we are surrounded by people that we may call leaders – in government, in business, in education, but sadly we are suffering from a scarcity of genuine leadership. Having witnessed so much deceit and abuse of power over the last decade or so, many people have stopped trusting their so-called leaders.
Nevertheless, we do need leaders. On our own, we may lack vision and direction and the strength to reach our goals. A true leader understands the importance of creating new leaders. Instead of trying to blind us with their brilliance, true leaders reflect our own light back to us so that we can achieve our full potential. Being a leader requires you to be comfortable creating conditions that enable your team to excel.
In addition to having a solid sense of self-worth and self-confidence, a leader needs some essential characteristics:
- Caring – empathise with people’s needs, concerns and goals
- Comfortable with ambiguity – willing to take calculated risks, can handle conflict & disruption, willing to change their minds
- Persistent – maintain positive, focused attitude in pursuit of a goal
- Good communication – know how to listen carefully, run meetings, make presentations, negotiate and speak in public
- Politically astute – know where to turn for support and resources
- Humorous – know how to inject a little mirth to relieve tension in a group
- Level-headed – amidst the turmoil & confusion
- Self-aware – know how their own patterns of behaviour impact others
- Future-focused – they organise short-term tasks according to long term priorities
These are not traits that you either have or don’t have; they are capabilities that you can learn, acquire and develop over time.
Leadership is less to do with formal authority and the power of command and control, and more to do with using influence. In particular, communication, conflict-resolution, diplomacy and motivational skills, as well as being alert, agile and adaptive.
Adaptive leaders MUST embrace uncertainty and adopt new approaches if they are to chart a course in today’s turbulent conditions. In an uncertain world, ridged rules are counterproductive. The best solutions will arise through learning and adapting to change. You can avoid chaos as you grow with engaged and productive people, not with rules. Adaptive leadership de-emphasises the need for hierarchy!
Adaptive leaders create a shared sense of purpose and vision and manage through influence rather than command and control. They see the world through the eyes of others. Their ability to empathise with colleagues, clients and competitors enables them to exert influence.
In an era that has become infamous for rewarding profit alone, employees are understandably sceptical when leaders talk about values. Because we need our teams to act autonomously and intuitively, often without explicit instructions or rules, a strong sense of shared purpose and values is more important than ever. Unless you focus on purpose, you cannot deliver performance!
Adaptive leaders reward people for what they accomplish, rather than tracking hours and tasks. They understand that REAL engagement and commitment comes from individual opportunities for Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose (as well as collaboration and recognition). They encourage, indeed insist upon experimentation. Ok, some experiments fail, but that is how we learn. There is no such thing as failure, only feedback!
They develop platforms that enable experimentation and learning, including opportunities to reflect on successes and failures. A process of continuous improvement. Adaptive Leaders allow decisions to be made at lower levels to reduce the time between need and response – they minimise the layers between management and the people on the ‘floor’. Any complex task is more effective when you remove the hierarchy system as it gets everyone feeling like they are in the ‘inner circle’, so they develop a sense of ownership and engagement.
Adaptive Leaders ensure that their business is constantly looking forward and staying close to their customers and the best place to find the truth, is to listen to them. They will tell you what is good and what is wrong, which will give you your strategy!
There is no definitive checklist for becoming an adaptive leader, but by focusing on the areas I have described, leaders can better equip themselves for a turbulent and unpredictable business environment.
To gauge how adaptive, you and your leadership team are, ask these three questions:
- How many adaptive leadership practices do we currently employ?
- Do we have the right model for our practice environment?
- What changes could we make to develop a more adaptive leadership approach?
Leadership will flow to those whose vision can inspire members of the team to put their best abilities to the service of the team. These leaders will create, rather than demand loyalty and the best people will want to work with them. They will communicate effectively, with a variety of people and use conflict between diverse points of view to reach new insights and collaboration. They will exert influence by the values they choose to re-enforce. They will make leaders of their team members!
If you would like help in developing an Adaptive Leadership Culture in your practice, please speak to us about our ‘Leadership Road Map’.
By Debbie Robinson