Tapping in to the New Leadership Soul
I vividly remember when I started Viventis - it was 2001, easing into the post-dot-com bubble era. Many companies went bust and the bear market caused low investor confidence. In hindsight, that event may have inspired me to start a recruitment firm. Armed with the simple goal of connecting talents to opportunities, I got my foot at the door. And I’m glad that I took that step.
Fast forward 20 years later, a lot has changed since then - and this is not just saying it lightly. The pandemic has created a crisis of a magnitude we have never experienced before. People struggled, companies pivoted, the way of living shifted. Even the value of leadership was questioned that is driven by corporate success. Leaders were more focused on strategy and lost the essential humanistic attributes that brought management and civilization as it is today.
After a year and a half in this raging crisis, we should come to recognize a balance in leadership value and reframe a new leadership DNA in order to lead through crisis and beyond. Here are the core characteristics or “soul” of new leadership that is more human-centric and anchored on a sense of bold purpose.
Taking center stage is empathy, a winning quality every leader should have. Empathy drives humanity where leaders show care, kindness, and solidarity for the people they lead. A great degree of humility is required that enables leaders to prioritize people over profits and support everyone’s well-being every step of the way, especially in these challenging times. Cultivating compassion is equally critical to help you better reflect and demonstrate great care in connecting and dealing with your people’s immediate needs, removing barriers, and encouraging a positive mindset to help your people think in terms of success rather than failure.
Communication is a key factor in understanding the needs and aspirations of your people. Having strong interpersonal and collaborative skills will help you guide your teams efficiently, build trust and credibility among stakeholders, and at the same time empower your people to be more engaged and productive in their work.
Empathy fuels your motivation and drives you to become a more active and visible leader in all aspects - seeing beyond your influence to help others succeed in their own right. In the midst of this never-ending crisis, embracing authentic empathy is at the heart of every leaders’ work.
In the age of constant transformation and change, problems arise and evolve daily. As leaders, we are challenged in our effort on how to solve these problems. Change agility is essential to sharpen our critical thinking and have the ability to understand the impact of the decisions we make, ensuring its alignment with organizational goals and accountability for results.
Addressing a problem doesn’t stop with just providing a solution. Leaders should be forward-thinkers and anticipate future possible scenarios. As such, having an intense curiosity will help you make sense of the world around you. Ask more questions, listen without judgment, and be more open to the insights and opinions of others.
As change is constant, we cannot allow ourselves to stay stagnant. Growth is an essential part of becoming a great leader and developing a learning or growth mindset can help you succeed in the long run. When you embrace change and practice a growth mindset, you can open new doors of possibilities without being held back by the fear of failure.
Resiliency is a crucial ingredient that will serve as the “glue” to strengthen your change agility. With the roller coaster of changes, pressure may be at an all-time high given our role as leaders to keep our organizations afloat, better lead our teams, and deal with our personal crises. That’s why building one’s confidence and courage in the face of uncertainty can help you weather any storm to keep moving forward.
Combined with resilience, unleashing your inner grit and perseverance are important for you to adapt, survive, and thrive in any difficulty you might experience as a leader. We need to look inward and tap our inner “grisilience” (grit + resilience) so that we can become beacons of inspiration to those that we lead and influence.
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Beyond the know-how of various technologies and tools, digital dexterity is all about the ability to apply the digital thinking in order to innovate and pivot. In today’s turbocharged landscape, having an experimental and innovative mindset encourages examination, taking risks, enduring failure, and learning around new digital tactics and models to harness untapped opportunities across the organization.
Staying ahead of the trends and leveraging technology to create more innovative ways of working for the future is crucial as a leader. Analytics and big data can help you uncover hidden patterns, correlations, and insights in order to make more data-informed decisions.
Moreover, transformative thinking will stimulate your vision for disrupting the status quo through creative efforts to drive innovation within and outside your organization. Once you apply this way of thinking, you can set the pace of building a sustainable digital advantage, securing your and your organization’s long-term success.
These vital qualities can guide you to reframe leadership that is humanistic, authentic, and transformative. Given the current situation, you may need to reset your priorities and re-evaluate your mindset as we are not just bound for a one-size-fits-all type of leadership. At the heart of these building blocks is the breakthrough we need to challenge previous beliefs and adapt and inspire change to help us move forward.
More than just a guide, these serve as my personal reflections at the new juncture of Viventis’ 20th anniversary. In the past 20 years, I have learned, failed, re-learned, and seen tremendous change and progress. It is through riding the wave of change that can embolden us as leaders to truly thrive. Charles Darwin best encapsulated how we can achieve continuity, growth, and success during these unprecedented times: “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.