Mastering Your Leadership Journey
Leadership like any other competency, demands varied skills and talents based on the context. Hence, it is imperative that leaders need to be highly aware individuals and also strive to learn to adapt and adjust themselves to their leadership journey. Irrespective of the time (be it today or tomorrow) and field, prospective leaders need to consciously reflect upon their leadership goals, as this will have a direct bearing on the choices they make, the decisions that they take, and their overall performance.
You won’t reach your goal of being an awesome leader until you embrace this pursuit as a journey. This journey is not a solo one. Just as you need to decide which pathway to take when you are at a crossroads, the leadership journey also warrants you to make pathway decisions about your organisations, the people that you lead, and of course yourself too. For instance, you may be faced with a choice about a potential new career opportunity, a new organisation/industry, or maybe even moving to a new country.
You will notice that every time that you make these kinds of decisions, it automatically sets you on a new pathway. When you take on a new path, there is a high possibility of you being faced with a sudden disruption either owing to the introduction of new technology or a new business model which compels you to change your path ahead.
Navigating Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity, Disruption & Diversity
It is quite important for you to understand these ideas in the present 21st-century context, as leadership is becoming complex and increasingly challenging these days. Hence, you need to consciously learn to think beyond the concept of VUCA by adding additional two D’s to the acronym to aptly reflect the broader context of your leadership journey ahead. The additional two D’s stand for ‘Disruption’ and ‘Diversity’. Disruption may present itself to you either in the form of social change, technology change, or industry reconfiguration etc. Diversity, on the other hand, entails cross-cultural, gender, and intergenerational diversity. As opposed to VUCA, in the V-UCAD world, your journey will demand more frequent changing of pathways which you would need to navigate through quite consciously and cautiously.
It has been observed that a lot of leaders do not consciously or actively tend to think about the new pathways that they embark upon or even when they take on new career/leadership changes. They are seen to go back to using the same mundane skills, approaches, and capabilities which do not even match the new context or situation.
Let’s consider an example to understand this well. Amanda is an awesome leader when placed in crisis situations. That is the reason she is often seen to successfully lead crisis project teams in his organisation. When placed in a crisis, Amanda would typically use an authoritative leadership approach to deal with the situation in hand. She is in fact quite precise, clear, and energetic, able direct the team to deliver the appropriate solution.
Amanda was eventually promoted to lead a business unit that was responsible to run operations in a different country. She was about to enter a completely different pathway, but unfortunately Amanda did not think about it consciously as she should have. Amanda felt quite good about herself since she had just received a promotion based on her past performance. So although this new business unit had no crisis in sight, she started to create some! Amanda started using the same authoritative leadership approach. When she received her performance feedback, she was surprised to hear she was ‘an authoritarian dictator who never takes into consideration the suggestions from his people, or consults them let alone inspiring them’. Her old style of leadership did not suit this new pathway.
Amanda gracefully accepted the feedback that he received and adjusted her leadership approach. This jolt made her more aware of herself as a leader, with empathy, context, and also the purpose of her leadership role. Hence, it is quite significant for leaders to be aware of their strengths as well as their weaknesses in a given context. When you are consciously aware, you will be able to set different priorities and objectives based on the context or the new pathway.
Leaders who are insightful are aware of the fact that by following the below mentioned six A’s; they will be able to navigate successfully when placed on a new pathway.
As a potential leader you need to be aware of yourself, others, your purpose as a leader, the context, and then back it up with an action plan and total commitment.
You must be able to set a long-term vision to be the best leader that you can be and link it to the context and your development agenda, training, reflection, and feedback.
You need to build your own as well as the capacity of your team to make able and just leadership judgements, take sane decisions about the business and the team, and also be able to leverage the existing diversity and talents of your team.
You should be able to adopt conscious leadership approaches that are in sync with your organisation, team, and your capabilities based on the context.
You should be able to fly to the following three varying leadership altitudes: strategic, vision, organisational and external; Operation, execution, stakeholders, and teams; Personal, relationships.
As insightful leaders, you should be able to harness the different capabilities of your teams, your organisations, as well as the context. These capabilities entail a mix of competitiveness, collaboration, creativity, control, cognitive abilities, and effective interpersonal, intrapersonal, public and group communication. As insightful leaders, you must be able to emphasise the capabilities which are required to achieve a strategic outcome shortly. This is the mantra with which you can have success on a new pathway. Reflect on your leadership consciously, cautiously, and contextually. Every leader’s journey is a unique one. All you need to do is to assess your motivations, passions, skills, and talents and match these to the new pathways that you embark upon in your leadership journey and adjust as and when required.