With only 13% of employees around the world being actively engaged at work and two-thirds of today’s employees feeling “overwhelmed”, leadership, as we know it is entering a bit of a crisis. With the rapid pace of change and increasing pressures, leaders are facing trying times in order to balance priorities, do more with less, and keep the business moving in the right direction.
What we are facing is a paradigm change. Employees today want more than just a job. They want meaningful work, and they expect their employer to make work more rewarding in many ways. Leaders, who are still using “recipe-book” methods try and increase employee engagement, often have the opposite impact. Corporate speak such as “There’s never been a more exciting time to be at company X” or establishing KPIs or kicking off yet another initiative to action plan based on the poor results of an employee survey are futile. Employees see right through them and have become sensitized.
What we need is to build leaders for the new paradigm. Forget the old and start afresh. A generation of leaders who, for the sake of this post we’ll call new paradigm leaders, are needed to essentially rewrite the rules on leadership as we know them and find ways to not only lead through turbulent times, but to actually thrive and succeed.
The good news is that we already somewhat know what the new paradigm looks like and how might we thrive through it. There are numerous examples of leaders and organizations that have already figured it out and are reaping the benefits. In the past few months, I’ve curated blogs and articles from a variety of sources on what I would coin are the new paradigms of leadership and strategy.
Boiling down the top leadership qualities that this new generation of leaders must bring to the table, here are the key attributes of new paradigm leaders:
Imaginative and Creative
The dynamics between creativity and business are ever changing in response to a hostile economic climate. Despite all pressure to work on the business and deliver for today, new paradigm leaders are very aware of the future and harness the creativity of those around them to paint a clear picture of the future and what must be done to be ready for it. They are not only focused on today, but also rather always imaginative and challenge themselves and others to see things through different lenses.
Culture Builder, Culture Shaper
New paradigm leaders see company culture as part of their business model and as a core competitive advantage. They understand that shaping culture is not the job of corporate or HR departments and given a choice between focusing on culture and strategy, they will choose culture. To them, it is the single most important attribute of being successful for today and tomorrow. Whether a CEO or mid-level manager, new paradigm leaders know and understand why culture matters and they work hard day in and day out to foster cultures that collaborate, connect and exemplify purpose.
While this is likely the most over-used buzzword in business nowadays, there is a huge premium on leaders can continuously exemplify that they are human. People choose to be led by humans not titles or credentials. Through actions, new paradigm leaders constantly remind people they’re human, each in their own unique way. Authentic leaders are true to their principals, willing to admit mistakes and accept responsibility. They work at all levels, sharing struggles and the risks with their people. Most importantly, authentic leaders always have their own flavor of what makes them unique and connected. Authenticity does not get adapted from the latest leadership best seller. It means exercising your own unique style and perspectives.
Be an Eternal Newbie
Gone are the days where a leader is expected to have all the answers. New Paradigm leaders show insatiable curiosity and are always eager to learn from everyone around them. They know and openly acknowledge that they are not smarter than the people in the room. They know that their success depends on the collective intelligence of their people and they want to learn as much as they can so they can bring out the best in people. New paradigm leaders know that curiosity and naiveté are critical conditions of innovation so they regularly put themselves in beginner mode, asking questions, soliciting help, and helping others develop.
Forget about comfort zone
We all like to spend time in our Comfort Zone. It’s the place where we feel in control, we know our strengths, can minimize our weaknesses. We can apply our previous experience to solve problems and handle most of what comes our way masterfully. New Paradigm leaders know that real growth occurs only outside of their comfort zone. They are not afraid to stand apart from the crowd, to be different, to step out of the comfort zone and risk all for what he/she believes in. They develop their employees using the very same principals – by challenging people to take on new challenges, by allowing people to fail and make mistakes, but becoming stronger for it. The magic only starts at the end of your comfort zone
Respectful – Treat every person with warmth
Being nice makes you a better leader and your company more profitable. A growing body of research suggests that the way to influence and to lead is to begin with warmth. Warmth is the conduit of influence: It facilitates trust and the communication and absorption of ideas. New paradigm leaders start by breaking their addiction to being right. They show empathy and caring, treating every person they meet with the same enthusiasm they would show if they met one of their heroes. Most importantly, how would the other person feel if you treated them that way?
Balance and Emotional Agility
Have you ever stopped mid-way through writing a scathing email, realizing it might be the wrong thing to do? It is perfectly natural for any leader to feel anxiety about priorities, distress over perceptions or fear rejection. New paradigm leaders don’t buy into or try to suppress their inner experiences. Instead they approach them in a mindful, values-driven, and productive way, developing what Susan David and Christina Congleton call emotional agility. New Paradigm leaders have the ability to recognize their patterns, label their thoughts and emotions, accept them, and act on them based on their values.