Contributed by John Sanei, a futures strategist who conveys smart, effective strategies to business owners and entrepreneurs to help build the courage and clarity they need to forge the future they want. Sanei is Africa’s first Singularity University faculty member who served as a panelist during EO’s future of leadership event with moderator Winnie Hart.
In the past 12 months, salary cuts, crashing economies and general crisis paralysis have left many leaders wandering aimlessly through the smoking debris of their businesses.
So, has leadership as we know it had a breakdown? No.
In fact, I think it’s a breakthrough.
Tragic, yes, but it’s also given leaders across the world an opportunity to rebuild.
The ways of yesteryear won’t hack it, though. Because this unknown future still has to unfold. The future, like architectural plans for a house, will still evolve, adapt and expand.
A 17th-century Japanese poet and samurai (how can we not relate to a samurai at a time like this!) said, “My barn has burned down, now I see the moon.” Over the past 80 to 100 years, we as human beings have been experiencing a saeculum―an evolvement of structures from growth to maturity, entropy and now to destruction.
This bleak loss has altered the work-balance perspective, added responsibilities and also posed a big question: How to drive teams, reinvent business models and create content and safe workplaces and spaces while still responding to the digital wave the virus has thrust upon us.
Understanding this seasonal context means there’s an onus on leaders to become aware of endings. Transitioning through this, we enter the phase of “the strange”. Without a sense of duration, path or outcome, this is either a dark void or a blank canvas. It’s time to redefine goals, but with a more humane and conscious approach.
Today, obscure challenges that pose significant economic and health risks highlight that leaders must respond immediately to unforeseen dangers. This requires a new type of leader, defenseless yet brave, atypical yet pragmatic, driven by market forces yet conscious of its footprint.
Vulnerability is the new superpower. Instead of blame, defensiveness and shock, brave new leaders choose to share their concerns and openly seek help by asking themselves these questions:
- Do I have a support system of people who can keep me grounded?
- Do I have an executive coach, mentor or confidant?
- What feedback have I received about not walking the talk?
- Do I demand privileges?
- Do I invite others into the spotlight?
- Do I isolate myself in the decision-making process, and do my decisions reflect what I truly value?
- Do I admit to making mistakes?
- Do I tell myself there are different rules for “people like me”?
These self-reflections forge genuine bonds. There’s an acceptance that we don’t have all the solutions, cementing trust and transparency. And that inspires loyalty. So, my suggestion is that you consider doing the following:
- Embrace change with enthusiasm and excitement. This is a state-of-mind change. There will not be clear answers to things anymore. Leaders will have to evaluate risks on the go and juggle between different decisions.
- Create. Tap into unique talents, functions and contributions.
- Overcommunicate. Our virtual world may be tech-driven, but the art of impactful and straightforward communication still counts. It’s critical to drive teams and goals, but reaching the heart and remembering to listen is the most powerful communication ever invented.
- Be there for your team. Empathy and emotional intelligence are the new game-changers for the workplace: Every voice and opinion matters in our new reality.
These are big discussions, and I don’t think anybody has all the answers. I suggest trying to divide yourself up into “today” and “tomorrow” teams. Make sure you have people focused on putting the fire out today while others are drawing up the future house plans.
If you’re in a position of leadership, or you own a business, or you’re in a management role: Realize that if you’re asking your people (or even yourself) to douse the flames while simultaneously doing the rebuilding―you’re not doing anyone any favours.
This new reality leadership is about adding and acknowledging value to every role―big or small. It maximizes the human spirit’s creativity, talent and positivity that can outplay digital creation in the workplace and beyond.