Future of Leadership: As a leader, how can you start to embrace the new leadership style?

leadership Mar 09, 2022

Change is the new constant. The past few years of the Covid19 pandemic have impacted organisations in many unforeseen ways, both positive and negative. Moving forward, we can no longer think and lead using the leadership behaviours of the BC ('Before Covid') era. 

We can no longer deal with current workplace issues like diversity, equity and inclusion, creating a psychologically safe workplace, the Great Resignation, hybrid working and the emphasis on employee wellbeing the same way we would have in the past. 

We live in a startlingly different world now, a world that is asking for a different type of leadership. This type of leadership requires connection, collaboration, and an acceptance of constant change in order to work together to resolve these challenges, and the ones that we'll no doubt face in the future.

So if you're a leader who likes to stay current, here are some ways you can engage those you work with in a different way by having conversations that can have real impact – fast.

Changing the conversation

One of the most powerful ways of engaging change is by encouraging you as the leader and your teams to interact differently. 

"Conversation is the fundamental unit of change; if you change the conversation, you change everything that surrounds it" 

Paul Z. Jackson and Janine Waldman (2011)

I love this quote as it highlights to me that change cannot happen unless there is conversation. Creating a Solution Focus coaching culture is one-way organisations have influenced long term change of culture for the good of all that has led to developing a high performance and highly engaged workforce where everyone feels included and has a sense of belonging.

I work with leaders in leadership coaching sessions and often hear stories of frustration regarding how their immediate manager is not clear with them or does not have conversations with them regularly enough in order to gain clarity of the direction they are heading. Or have conversations to help support them to manage challenges that emerge along the way and these are senior leaders! People are wanting ongoing conversations, not the one-off performance development ones that happen once a year. Regular 1 to 1 conversations, whether weekly, fortnightly or monthly, helps ensure progress happens, they are on the right track, and minimal misunderstandings occur.

Focus on what is working

One of the principles of Solution Focus coaching is to focus on what is working. Our natural tendency is to default to what is not working and ignore what is working. Learning the skill of having solution focused coaching conversations helps you reorientate the conversation to the preferred future or what has worked in the past. It is that simple! And it's is a much more constructive conversation that you as the leader can help co-create the way forward with the team member rather than expect them to know what to do. It also changes the interaction to one that is respectful and actually makes progress. 

Recently I had a participant, let's call him Josh (not his real name), in a Coaching Approach to Mentoring workshop where I demonstrated the mentoring conversation to other participants. His chosen discussion topic was to be better at delegating. After a 10 minute conversation, he realised when he had delegated well in the past, he had spent the time creating the "preferred future" in concrete detail so his team member knew exactly where they were headed. Josh realised he had not done this with everyone and had been frustrated that people were not getting what he was after, leaving him to jump in and do it for them. Josh formed this insight by focusing on when he had delegated well, and when it had worked, so he could do more of that. We didn't focus on the issue of him not delegating. Instead, we focused on building his motivation and realisation that he actually has done this before.

Developing people for the long term

Creating a constructive coaching culture focused on growing and developing all, where leaders work beside their people respectfully and collaboratively. This is what the future of leadership is about. The workforce now wants to be developed by their immediate manager on the job. They want a "coach", not a boss!

Role model a holistic approach to wellbeing – working well and living well

This is a much bigger topic that I will explore in another blog, however  I will mention some key things that are important for leaders to be mindful of. This is from the Global Leadership Wellbeing Survey which is a self-assessment tool that I have been using with leaders to understand their own approach to well-being. First, you as the leader actually model "wellbeing" each day with how you work, when you send emails and take phone calls, how you interact, what you eat and what you talk about. People notice this. 

The first step is to learn and be educated around what working well and living well looks like.

It is more than addressing mental health issues at work and having the ability to ask someone if they are ok. While this is important, there is so much more to leading wellbeing well! Leaders of the present and future actually have authentic relationships with people inside and outside of work and have the ability to be vulnerable, have a sense of meaning and purpose around what they do, take care of their own inner health and sense of calm, exercise regularly, eat nutritious meals, have a sense of energy about them, are able to have boundaries around their work and have a life outside of work and lastly they are stimulated by their work and continue to grow and learn themselves.

This is what the future of leadership looks like. Creating a culture of inclusion and where people feel they belong all begins with the leader "knowing thyself". What might you need to do differently to move to this new way of leading?

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