The world we live and work in has become so complex. Change is bigger and happening more rapidly. Disruption—both intentional and unintentional—is everywhere. Uncertainty and ambiguity seem to be ever-present.
Leaders everywhere have been tasked with navigating these complexities, and it isn’t easy. In fact, many leaders are coping with some of the biggest challenges they’ve ever encountered and discovering that the leadership “truths” they’ve relied on in the past no longer resonate in this new environment.
That’s because the capabilities leaders need today are different from those they needed in the past.
Now more than ever, leaders need to focus on behaviors grounded in human connection, empowerment, emotional intelligence, and well-being. It’s what matters to people’s daily experiences, and it’s what will help us live, work, and relate more effectively in the future.
Speaker, coach, and author Nicholas Janni acknowledges this in his book, Leader As Healer, which looks at the shifting roles of leaders. In a recent interview with Forbes, something he said really stuck with us: “I believe that the failure to correct the disconnections is severely detrimental not only to individual and organizational performance, but to our capacity for creating healthy, thriving futures.”
That “disconnect” he’s talking about is driving the need to bridge the gaps in our current leadership capacities. Some of the beliefs that have traditionally dictated how we think about leadership—what many organizations have framed as important—just don’t serve us anymore. And Janni’s observations about what’s missing are consistent with the themes that arise over and over again in our work with leaders.
As we think about the mindset, the awareness, and the capabilities leaders need today, it becomes clear why some of the old notions about leadership need to be debunked.
Left-brain thinking trumps all others.
In business, there’s been a perception that logic trumps creativity. Just look at our reliance on policies, processes, and data over situational thinking, discernment, and intuition.
But in times of flux, we can’t follow a formula. There’s no one, reliable way to lead a team through a major transition, and doing so often relies on leaning into the “softer” skills that are sometimes discredited—things like compassion, patience, and empathy.
Emotions are either negative or positive.
When it comes to emotions, we’ve been quick to assign labels. Confidence, trust, and optimism are good. Doubt, worry, and uncertainty are bad. And at work (as in life), we’re conditioned to reward the good and punish the bad.
The trouble is, emotions of all sorts are a fact of life—and none of them are right or wrong. As leaders, we witness them in our teams and experience them ourselves. And the most effective leaders are able to manage them—not by boxing them up and shoving them aside (as we may have been taught), but by creating a safe space to acknowledge and work through them.
Listening and relating take up too much time.
Think about the time you spend with the people you lead. How much of it is focused on issuing instructions, seeking updates, or inquiring about the status of that critical project? If you answered, “all of it,” you’re not alone.
When these types of conversations dominate your day, you’re left devoid of time to connect with, listen to, and relate to your team. And those connections are more critical to success than many leaders realize (and more critical than many of their organizations allow for).
Vulnerability has no place at work.
Of all the things we’re expected to “be” at work, vulnerable doesn’t often make the list. Too often, vulnerability is perceived as a sign of weakness. We’re not allowed to say, “I don’t know.” We don’t feel comfortable voicing dissent. We shy away from displaying our true, authentic selves.
For leaders, a failure to be vulnerable can be as damaging as a sinking strategy. It puts up barriers, and it robs you of the opportunity to build meaningful relationships. Yes, vulnerability comes with discomfort. But it also opens the door to greater strength, trust, and resiliency—traits that leaders need in themselves and on their teams.
Perhaps now more than ever, the world needs a different type of leadership.
And busting the old leadership myths is just one way to begin enabling truly effective leadership in the new, more complex world we live and work in.
The Transitions Coaching Emerging Leader Group Coaching Program helps leaders dive even deeper into their beliefs about leadership and how those beliefs influence their effectiveness. Learn more today.