Rethinking Leadership – Beyond the “New Normal”
I have worked on leadership and change since my university studiesand throughout my career: in international relations, on social and civic action, and within organisations and their management systems. I deeply believe that leadership matters: for any organization, any business, any country, any community, and in our personal lives and families.
To me, leadership means the courage to take a stance and to initiate action, and to provide clarity and direction. It means risking to make mistakes and learning from them. And to act in service of others and for a common purpose, something that is bigger than our own selves.
The challenge of Leadership
During my own career, I have experienced great leadership as well asmany challenges and failures of leadership. I have seen the missedopportunities and lack of foresight that come from overly rigid topdown planning, especially when it turned into mechanistic, mainlynumbers driven, “painting by colours”. The disengagement and lesseroutcomes created through lack of communication up and down the hierarchy. And the waste generated when leaders explicitly or implicitlyencourage their people to work in silos instead of sharing informationand collaborating.
Personally, I have failed in my leadership. There have been situationswhen I have lacked the courage to take a stance. Other moments atwork, or in my personal life and in my family, when I have preferredkeeping my peace, and let things pass by for too long when I should have taken the lead. And how many times have I been overwhelmed by things on my to-do list, losing sight of what mattered most. Or as a leader, being so much in the doing that I did not give sufficientattention to creating safety and clarity for my team.
So – leadership is challenging. And right now, in our globalized worldof COVID, Climate change, the many other problems humanity isfacing, it is more challenging than ever before.
The Call for Leadership
As a citizen, as a human being, and even more so as a mother of twoyoung women of the generation that is inheriting this world from us, Iknow how much is at stake and how important it is that we change howwe are operating. And at the same time, after 9 months under COVID and with the many demands that are on me at work and in my personal life, I often feel like going for a great vacation !
Action – Self Care – Focus
I see that most of my colleagues are in similar places: the need anddesire to act and the tiredness from continuous action. On a personallevel for each of us, really vital questions therefore are:
How do I sustain my energy through this crisis ?
How do I project myself beyond COVID ?
And how can I – from my position and with my capabilities – mosteffectively contribute to creating solutions from this crisis ?
In my work as leadership coach, a good part of my work is dedicated tothese questions. Leading to greater balance between action and selfcare, better focus, and more effectiveness and impact.
Rethinking Leadership – beyond COVID
And how about the specific challenges of leadership through andbeyond COVID ? COVID has triggered a crisis – that’s clear. But it has also simplyaccentuated and accelerated global challenges that existed before. The idea of a “NEW NORMAL” is an illusion, because it makes usbelieve that we are somehow returning to a new version of the old normal. But actually, we are facing a really new REALITY – in terms of complexity, speed of change, volatility and ambiguity, and interconnectedness. This new reality is not a blip. It is here to stay. And to lead successfully in this world, we have to question old truths about leadership.
What then are the key distinctions between traditional leadership, and the leadership required today and tomorrow ? I see 5 main dimensions– the dimensions in which we most have to change, to build theleadership that is needed to succeed in today’s reality:
1. Traditional leadership is linear and values goals and plans. Successful leadership in today’s complex and volatile environment is circular. It creates clear direction, and at thesame time generates openness and agile adaptation.
2. Traditional leadership is about swift and efficient action, in theshort and medium term. Successful leadership in today’senvironment puts emphasis on preparing for the future. Notonly for the probable, but also for the (yet) unthinkable.
3. Traditional leadership relies on power and control. Successfulleadership in today’s environment fosters collaboration.
4. “New Normal” leadership focuses on moving to more remotemanagement. Successful leadership beyond a “new normal ” focuses on increasing connection, closeness and cohesion.
5. To be successful with the new leadership skills and in today’senvironment is less a question of learning more skills, but ofgrowing one’s inner leadership abilities: the ability to trust andcreate trust, to connect, engage, and inspire, and to stay calmand able to make clear decisions in uncertainty.
What is your take on leadership beyond COVID? In your own context today, what does great leadership look like? And… if you had to identify the one most critical feature for leaders to be successful today, what would that be ?
If you would like to explore any of these questions further, and howthey relate to your own leadership or to your organization, let’sconnect. I’d be delighted to have a conversation with you.