Business life is always full of unexpected challenges, never more so than now. Whether it’s pandemic lockdowns or runaway cost inflation; climate change to ever more complex geopolitics; political uncertainty to technological advances; it’s clear we are in a deeply disruptive time when the pace of change is constantly accelerating. So, what does it take to be an effective business leader these days?
Talking less and listening more
Traditionally, internal business communications were one way and top down, with the commander telling the troops what was happening and what to do. In these times of social media, WhatsApp groups and the like, the chat is much more bottom up and side-to-side and it’s difficult to keep it strictly internal. Good leaders have their ‘receive’ mode switched on much more often than ‘transmit’.
Customers are no longer relevant just because of what they spend, but also for their opinions. Staff are no longer important just because of the jobs they do, now it’s as much about how they influence a whole range of stakeholders and for the ideas they can share.
We all know how good it feels to be heard and understood by another person and how that changes our behaviour. It can help quell anger and frustration, enabling us to start seeing things differently. When employees are being listened to by their leaders, it can only improve how an organisation functions. When customers realise that their views are taken into account, it strengthens the relationship.
Knowing and admitting you don’t have all the answers
The pace of change and disruption in the business world is phenomenal. Stable operating models are few and far between, so organisations must continually adapt and evolve and so must their leaders. It’s no longer credible for a leader to act as if they know all the answers all the time.
It is more acceptable now for a leader to say: “I don’t know.” This is difficult at first because so many of them will have risen through their organisations into leadership roles. They are alphas – and alphas always have answers. But demonstrating that they need and will accept input from others, means leaders can prepare for challenging conversations and work out how they are going to lead people through tough times in a more holistic way.
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Turning current problems into future solutions
In these chaotic times, leaders need a shift in mindset so that they use the challenges of today to find solutions for tomorrow. This involves taking problems and instead of applying the blinkered and fixed thinking patterns associated with them, reinterpreting the issues as opportunities to move forward in a positive way.
Could the high disposal costs of the non-biodegradable waste a business produces be turned from a profitability anxiety into a new recycling, re-manufacturing and re-use project, for example, producing environmental and perhaps community benefits? Leaders who come up with initiatives like this are likely to win plaudits from a wide audience, not least their staff and other stakeholders.
Seeing your business as more than just a profit generator
Can a business leader look at the world and see their company as more than a way of making money and getting rich, but as a vehicle to make a positive impact as well? Can they also focus on the world and its problems, from inequality to climate change?
This is about leaders having the awareness to look outside their business bubble at the broader picture to ask things like: what do I care about? How can my business have a role in impacting those things in a positive way? The world is calling out leaders, companies and governments to serve something greater than themselves. Local communities are doing the same, but on a more micro basis.
Of course, leaders can’t ignore their duties and responsibilities to shareholders and the requirement to deliver profitable and sustainable growth. These will always be essential business aims. Even so, it’s about also understanding that their overall footprint – their impact on people and society – is far greater than that. It means leaders providing their organisation with a focus: why does this company exist and who does it exist for?
Mentoring groups for business leaders
Leadership can be brutally lonely. More and more business leaders are joining or creating mutual mentoring organisations with their peers, sharing their fears, vulnerabilities and coping strategies for each other’s benefit. Mentoring is definitely not for wimps, it’s for those with the common sense to know they need help to grow and improve.
How we can help
We have extensive experience advising business leaders, and we will always work with you to find the best solution for you and your business.
One of our Partners would be more than happy to have a non-obligatory confidential chat with you. We can be contacted at email@example.com or call us on 020 3326 6454 and we will arrange for a call with one of our Partners.