Organizations will continue to reorganize to keep up with the rapid changes affecting business and the way work is done. It is the only way they can survive. Work is going global. Jobs are going virtual. New technologies have created intense competition for business. Careers have changed. With the scope and speed of current change, new opportunities will be spotted by those who are open to seeing them and who welcome the future despite the environment of constant change, ambiguity, uncertainty, and unpredictability.
The survival of any organization improves when everyone steps up and takes on the role of a leader. Those who wait for rules and remain paralyzed by a lack of guidance may have penalties to pay – constant frustration and anxiety, and eventually, obsolescence.
Adopt a sense of adventure and navigate the complexity. Take cues from any teenager playing a video game. Gamers don’t look for specific instruction. They grab the source of movement, make intuitive connections, get moving and make their way while taking risks and bumping into blocks and unfamiliar challenges.
In complex environments such as businesses are experiencing, a similar amount of courage, character and a broad perspective is required, calling on new behaviors.
Leadership Behaviors for the Future
An Open Mind
When experiencing rapid change, thinking about the future naturally provokes a degree of anxiety. We tend to look at things from the perspective of our own personal survival and our own competence. We feel a lack of control. Anxiety increases, and unfortunately, the mind freezes. We fail to comprehend what we hear and have difficulty seeing what others see. We seek comfort by falling back on what is familiar to try to make sense of events, reverting to fixes from the past to try to regain control. But a closed mind narrows the view of what is really going on. We lose perspective.
But how do you lead when you have the feeling of brain overload? The solution is simple, and the current environment is ripe for it. Collaborate. Ask questions and hear the answers. Allow others to weigh in. Change is occurring too rapidly for one individual to have all of the relevant and accurate information to make the best decisions.
A Sense of Humor
Humor allows us to look at things from a non-threatening perspective. It lowers tension, anger, pain, and stress from all the demands we must meet and changes we must make. “In the most complex environments, a sense of humor and its timely introduction illuminates perspective, often exposed as absurd, to the real nature of the challenge. Humor can make situations that seem outside the realm of possibility easier to see.
An ability to identify trends and then react to the trends is essential for continued success during change. If you notice that much of your work is being automated or outsourced, this is a trend with which you should be concerned. After taking stock of your skills, you may decide to acquire new skills. If you notice a decrease in the need for the services your department offers, this is a trend that needs to be examined, then followed by a plan to remain relevant, such as offering additional service or support. Leaders need to track changes in production, demand for services, and markets served, employ analytical skills, and call on intuitive skills to be able to recognize a trend and determine whether a reaction is required.
Cultural Knowledge & Global Value
Customers, colleagues, partners and suppliers are all global dispersed now. Leaders must understand cultures. They must also be at ease with and accept cultural differences as a way of doing business. The key to working effectively is an open mind, patience, a willing to acknowledge and accept differences. Things can go wrong quickly if you don’t.
If your career plans include advancement to a top leadership position you must include development of global acumen. Good communication skills including listening and sharing and adaptability are on the top of the list. Effective global leaders tend to listen first and then act. They have learned how to motivate people across cultures. They drive results by communicating clearly with integrity and authenticity. They set clear goals and adapt their leader styles to the needs of the people they are working with.
The only thing that is constant is change and you’ve probably experienced constant change recently. You are faced with new expectations, shifting priorities, and different reporting relationships. Your role may be vaguely defined, and your assignments may get constantly altered. Job responsibilities won’t be as clear as they used to be, as the needs of the organization change and the way work is done changes.
People who have a high need for structure will be uncomfortable. Successful leaders must go with the flow. Going with flow demands alertness and agility. Agility and flexibility will depend to a great degree on being comfortable “making it up as you go.”
Courage of Candor
Diversity of thought is essential to successful business decisions, yet candid communication is an illusive attribute. Lack of candor and its symptomatic behaviors such as withholding bad news, hoarding information, and neglecting to raise questions or challenge ideas stifles smart ideas, quick diagnosis and action, and insightful contributions.
It is the candid leader who will save the organization from making derailing mistakes and rise as the hero. Learning how and when to deliver candid input is essential to the development plan of any rising leader.
The one thing that is constant is change and effective leaders continue to learn and change over time in order to perform successfully in new or challenging circumstances. They change with change. They are resilient in the face of change. That’s the power of learning agility. And companies are putting their future success in the hands of agile learners.
The evidence is growing that long-term success as a leader seems to depend largely on a readiness and ability to learn, because it enables us to acquire new behaviors quickly and effectively, which ultimately enables adaptability and resilience. While this overarching concept of learning agility may always have been important, it seems even more so now, given the constant change in today’s business environment.
Read more about learning agility.
It is easier to study leadership than to do leadership
There is no shortage of challenging and complex opportunities requiring good leadership. Leaders of the future need a richer and broader set of leadership skills than ever before. They need to be pioneers and change agents with the courage and vision to power through challenges and to spot new opportunities for success. Leadership today is not about maintaining the status quo or preserving the successes of the past, but rather pushing forward through challenges without a road map.