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The Changing Face of Leadership

Minouche Shafik (from the London School of Economics) is known to have said “In the past leadership was about muscles. Now it’s about brains. And in the future it’ll be about the heart”

Why are we seeing a new wave of leadership emerging?

What forces are driving this shift?

As an Executive Coach working across many sectors at all organisational levels, I hear stories.

Narratives of convergent thinking, fixed mindsets, limiting beliefs, toxic cultures, comparative and scarcity mindsets. Narratives of people who have excelled in their craft, been promoted into positions where they have to lead, motivate and inspire people to ignite purpose and vision; and who then find themselves receiving feedback across teams of dysfunction and disengagement.

Where vulnerability is avoided at all cost, and self-protective behaviors are commonplace. where people have little idea about their own or the organisation’s values and care less about why they matter at all.

 Where trust drips away in daily increments as people feel unheard, disrespected, overworked and overwhelmed.

I also hear the polar opposite story. A more exciting and optimistic story.

Narratives where people across an organisation are skilled up to have hard conversations, find their voice and speak up when they have a question/query/concern or simply needing some help.

Narratives where vulnerability is not seen as a weakness, but rather central to good work.

Where values and boundaries are so clearly articulated, and everyone is clear on what behaviours they’re expected to live into each and every day. Where people understand that trust is fragile, grows over time through small daily actions of respect, reliability and caring. Where leaders aren’t afraid to ask about and help deal with the fears and feelings that fill people’s days.

There is a heavy price to pay when senior leaders fail to recognize that Emotions drive People, and People drive Performance.

There is a collective level of struggle across our workplaces. People are losing energy, enthusiasm and hope for a better future. The economy feels tough, watching the news at night fuels nightmares, and sleep is increasingly elusive as the days place pressures on us that would have our ancestors shaking their heads in disbelief.

Home life and work life have blended in ways we’d never imagined, and hybrid work is here to stay.

A positive change for many, and a new challenge for others.

People need something different from their leaders. The world is different, and models of leadership that served us even a few years ago are no longer motivating people to show up as the best version of themselves at work.

Jamais Cascio (futurist) sums it up perfectly. He describes the world as BANI.

  1. Brittle: brittle systems look strong, yet are quick to snap.

The antidote:  Resilience

  • Anxious: anxious systems will see some people over- functioning (micro-managing and controlling, delegating poorly) with others under-functioning (disengaging, shutting down, quiet-quitting). Anxiety is a highly contagious emotion so before very long, whole teams start becoming anxious. 

The antidote: Calm, Trust and Empathy

  • Non-linear: non-linear systems are unpredictable and extremely complex. It’s really hard to predict what force (usually outside of your control) are going to  impact your strategic plan.

The antidote: Curiosity and Improvisation

  • Incomprehensible: incomprehensible systems are just hard to make sense of. We’re in unchartered territory a lot of the time. These systems demand that leaders become more comfortable with taking risks and making ‘intelligent failures.’

The antidote: Intuition

Seven words sum up why the face of leadership is changing.

We need to foster leaders (across our organisations) who are:

  • Resilient
  • Calm
  • Trust themselves and know how to build Trust with others
  • Empathic
  • Curious
  • Able to Improvise
  • Intuitive (able to make decisions from a wholehearted place – head, heart and gut)

Every one of these speaks to emotional intelligence.

It’s no wonder that case studies from the global Emotional Intelligence network, Six seconds, consistently show that organisations that prioritise growing the emotional intelligence of their people are 27 X higher performing.

Cheers Alison

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