How can today’s business leaders keep up with the seismic geopolitical and economic shifts in the world?
What do these mean for their own leadership narratives?
In their newly-released book, The Leadership Lab: Understanding leadership in the 21st century, author Chris Lewis and megatrends analyst Dr. Pippa Malmgren set out to help leaders navigate these changes successfully. Covering everything from how to build a new type of leadership trust when other spheres of public power have been overturned to robots overtaking companies, this book explains not only why the old rules no longer apply, but also how to blaze a trail in this new world order and be the best leader you can be.
I recently had the opportunity to ask the authors about their new book and get their thoughts on some of the most important challenges facing leaders today.
“’What do you think?’ are the four most powerful words in a leaders armory.” -Lewis and Malmgren
There is but one skill required today that is different from previous generations. That is the willingness and ability to embrace uncertainty. Once a leader has abandoned certainty, they are on the path to excellence. The fact-based, research-led, ‘drill-down’ analytical approach that has historically been followed in the pursuit of efficiency is no longer enough. There’s nothing wrong with this, provided it is not at the expense of a ‘look-across’ big picture view. The reductionist model with one right answer at the back of the book promulgated by the infallible (often male) leader, is disappearing. This means the leader can no longer afford to predict one outcome but must now prepare for all outcomes.
“There is but one skill required today that is different from previous generations. That is the willingness and ability to embrace uncertainty.” -Lewis and Malmgren
What leadership qualities are important to today’s workforce?
The best leaders—the men and women people want to follow, not have to follow—are confident, authentic (genuine, worthy of trust, reliance and belief), and intrinsically powerful, which means they’re connected to a purpose greater than themselves.
“It’s choice, not chance, that determines your destiny.” -Jean Nidetch
Recent studies show that only about 20 percent of workers understand their company’s mission and goals. Only 21 percent say they would “go the extra mile.” Less than 40 percent believes senior leaders communicate openly and honestly.
Today many feel that they are over-managed and under-led.
Jude Rake has over 35 years leading high-performance teams. He is the founder and CEO of JDR Growth Partners, a leadership consulting firm.
You personally observed Pat Summitt’s leadership and watched her in action at half-time. You saw her growing other leaders, not demanding followership. It was such a powerful example. Would you share that story?
Several years ago when I was COO at a large consumer products company, we needed a keynote speaker for our annual marketing and sales meeting. Given that our company was a big sponsor of NCAA women’s college basketball, we decided to invite Pat Summitt to be our keynote speaker.
Pat inspired everyone with her energy and her famous “Definite Dozen Leadership Traits for On and Off the Court Success.” After our meeting at dinner, I shared with Pat that I had coached youth basketball for many years. She graciously took interest and invited me to be a guest coach at a Lady Vols game. I was floored! I took her up on her offer and eventually travelled to Knoxville for an unforgettable weekend.
I knew that Pat was an outstanding coach, and I admired her for her accomplishments, but I had no idea just how good she was at cultivating leaders throughout the Tennessee women’s basketball program. From the moment I stepped onto that campus, everything was executed with excellence. I soon learned that I would be shadowing Pat. I discovered firsthand why so many recruits chose the Lady Vols program, and why so many former players and coaches use terms of endearment when recalling Pat Summitt’s influence on their lives.
“Confidence is what happens when you’ve done the hard work that entitles you to succeed.” –Pat Summitt
Game day was quite a production, from pre-game activities to post-game reception. Anyone who watched Pat from the sidelines might expect her to lead everything with an iron fist. It was quite the opposite. Pat was clearly orchestrating everything . . . but the entire weekend appeared to be executed by everyone but Pat. She had done most of her leading and coaching in practice. The assistant coaches and players stepped up to the plate time and again, as did her administrative support staff. They took turns leading, and they collaboratively leaned on each other’s strengths to elevate performance throughout game day activities.
During the game, we sat immediately behind Pat and the team. At halftime the Lady Vols were trailing. We went into the locker room with the team. Pat was not there. I watched as the players—by themselves—took turns facilitating a brainstorming session about what had worked well and what needed improvement. Then they presented their analysis to the assistant coaches for input and guidance. Clearly, these players and assistant coaches had been trained well. They knew what to do without being micro-managed. Finally, Pat joined the team, and the players and assistant coaches collectively presented their conclusions. Pat succinctly graded their performance and assessments, added her own personal evaluation, and they aligned on an action plan for the second half. Everyone had led at some point. They leaned on each other’s strengths and focused on the biggest opportunities for improvement. They debated vigorously and respectfully. Ownership was achieved. There was no lecture or screaming. Half-time ended with a quintessential Pat Summitt inspirational call to heightened intensity and hustle, and the team went out and kicked their opponents’ behinds!
For me, this was an impressive example of a leader growing leaders and difference-makers, not just demanding followership. Pat Summitt showed us that leaders can be demanding, passionate, and ultra-competitive, yet still focus a significant amount of their time, energy, and empathy on the development of leaders at all levels of their organization. It’s what fueled her unprecedented results at Tennessee, and it’s the most important thing leaders do.
“Servant leaders bring out the best in others.” –Jude Rake
I often say that leadership is personal, not positional. Myth number one hits this immediately. What are some of the problems with the “boss has ruled” mentality?
I so hate the word boss. Maybe because I’ve had one and, no, I never want to be seen as one. Frankly, from a purely practical standpoint, the “boss has ruled” mentality simply doesn’t work. It might get the job done for a while, but it will wear people out over time. We don’t get the best people have to offer because they will only do what has to be done to meet the “boss’s” expectation. But, I think there is a bigger reason. It’s wrong. At least from my Biblical perspective, we are all – regardless of title or position – ultimately to be servants of others.
“The culture the leader creates impacts the feedback a leader receives.” -Ron Edmondson
Myth number two says that if you’re not hearing complaints, everyone must be happy. Tell us a little more about this observation.
I’ve learned even in the best organizations and on the healthiest teams, the leader only knows what they know. And, people may be either hesitant to share what they are really feeling for fear, or retribution or they assume the leader already knows the problems. I go through seasons, as the leader, where I’m simply getting the required things done. I’m traveling a lot. I’ve got a lot of projects on my plate. If I’m not careful, I can assume silence means agreement. I must consistently be asking good questions to make sure I know the true pulse of the organization.
7 Myths of Leadership
Myth 1: A position will make me a leader.
Myth 2: If I am not hearing anyone complain, everyone must be happy.
Myth 3: I can lead everyone the same way.
Myth 4: Leadership and management are the same thing.
Myth 5: Being the leader makes me popular.
Myth 6: Leaders must have charisma and be extroverts.
Kristi Hedges is a leadership coach specializing in executive communication. You may have read one of her articles in “Forbes” or encountered her other book, The Power of Presence. Her extensive research and survey into what inspires people was fascinating. I recently asked Kristi about her latest work on inspiration in the workplace.
“When we highlight potential, we boost confidence.” -Kristi Hedges
Tell me more about the four factors that enhance our inspirational effect, what you call the Inspire Path.
The Inspire Path puts a structure to the research I found that uncovers what communication behaviors inspire others. It’s a guide to increase inspirational impact. While we can’t force someone to be inspired—and if we try to push, it backfires—we can create the conditions that foster inspiration. People are most often inspired through certain types of conversation with others. If we want be more inspiring, we should focus on being:
“What we concentrate on gets stronger.” -Kristi Hedges