The new New Leader
The last 12 months have been challenging the global pandemic, and the rapid transformation it’s forced upon how we work, interact, and lead within our organisations.
We’ve had to rapidly reimagine the workplace — transforming how things are done, where things are done, how we structure our teams, and how we resource our efforts³.
These new challenges have forced leaders to learn and adapt alongside the rapid change — and it’s having its impact on health and wellbeing.
Unpaid work is up 13% overall from 2019 to 2020 — as we struggle to find a balance between work and home in this new working world. With the brunt of that increase attributed to managers, who on average are doing 39% more unpaid work than their teams.⁴
So this begs the question — what can we as leaders do to rapidly respond to this VUCA world we face?
Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable
The world is a slave to entropy — always trying to return to chaos.
There will never be a stable and final destination — this would be an indication that you’ve stopped innovating and will be overtaken by your competitors.
Creating competitive advantage as a business requires the ability to learn faster than the competition⁵, so too must leaders learn and adapt faster than their teams.
In this, we’ll move beyond being passive, beyond rules-based reward and punishment, substituting short term goals for long term higher-level values and ideals to:
1. Establish and support Westrum organizational culture
2. Drive technologies that enable productivity
3. Support and empower teams with experimentation and innovation
4. Remove the constraints of organizational silos through strategic alignment and shared goals
For every bottleneck you remove, you will reveal new bottlenecks threatening to slow your teams’ productivity. And by the time you’ve optimised all known concerns, some key part of your product or process will have new technologies, capabilities, or demands that create new forces on the system as a whole.
The aim of getting comfortable is a fools’ errand as a manager. For the comfort you’ll get of a stable system — so will your competitors continue to outpace the innovation of your comfortable.
The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else — Eris Ries⁷
The new New Leader
Leaders have to develop as fast as their team.
Having the answers as a leader is not how we differentiate ourselves — whatever knowledge we have is fleeting, our ability to learn quickly is what differentiates us.
New leaders focus on the skills that got them there (often hands-on skills), not the skills that will get the team to where it needs to go.
The goal of the modern transformational leader¹ extends beyond sustaining their own division, role, and status — not just empowering their team, but attempting to emancipate them and free them from control.
Simply put, when you have a big, complex problem (sic) and a bunch of people capable of working a solution to that problem, one of the best things you can do is get out of their way and let the professionals get to work.
It will be a scary new world for you as focus on your new purpose⁶, focusing on inspiring and motivating those around you to achieve outcomes no individual could achieve on their own.
Be like water
The business environment is changing — and with it, we need to create motivated, empowered teams armed with the skills to adapt to this rapidly changing world.
Be formless, shapeless, like water — Bruce Lee
Through a focus on vision, intellectual stimulation, personal recognition, inspirational communication, and support — along with active management and introspection on our anxiety and fears, we can create an adaptive organisation able to respond to the challenges of the constantly changing world.
- Forsgren. N PhD, Humble. J, Kim. G (2018), Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and Devops: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations, It Revolution Press
- Kruger. J, Dunning. D (1999), Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
- Boland. B, De Smet. A, Palter. R, Sanghvi. A (2020), Reimagining the office and work life after COVID-19, McKinsey
- Nahum. D (2020), Work and Life in a Pandemic, The Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute
- de Geus. A (1988), Planning as Learning, Harvard Business Review
- de Vroome. T (2020), Make yourself redundant, Medium.com
- Ries. E (2011), The Lean Startup, Currency; 1 edition