Being a leader who inspires leadership.
Boss, pioneer, and counselor are some of the adjectives associated with the term ‘leader’. If researched, Google would verify that a leader is someone who leads the vision, and rallies his team to work towards a shared goal. That sounds quite simple and also accurate. In any given workplace, the hierarchy trickles down from a leader to the team members, and down to the support staff. It all begins with the leader.
Jacinda Ardern – 40th Prime Minister of New Zealand – has taken the world, and each of us, by surprise for the leadership qualities she’s exhibited. There is no criticism of her leadership abilities and she’s become quite a role model, especially for females in a leadership position.
So I ask, not who but how must a leader be? What is it that sets them apart and makes them unique in their capacity and ability? Since being elected, Jacinda Ardern – 40th Prime Minister of New Zealand – has taken the world, and each of us, by surprise for the leadership qualities she’s exhibited. There is no criticism of her leadership abilities and she’s become quite a role model, especially for females in a leadership position. We’ve all witnessed her bring about prominent, and very much celebrated, federal changes in New Zealand. But what’s even more respectful and aspiring about her are her listening, communicating, and supportive tendencies.
At the same time, Mark Zuckerberg – Founder and CEO of Facebook – is honored for his visionary mindset and for transforming the digital age that’s taken us all by a storm. However, his leadership tendencies have been questioned. However, they have each impacted the world and made a commendable difference in their capacities and we look up to them.
Something about their approach of leadership speaks to their beneficiaries and is different from what has been historically known and practiced. To understand this, we have looked through the unique traits of high-performing and reputed leaders and gathered some observations.
Let’s proceed to learn what the new-age leadership must exhibit to inspire change and sustainability:
According to Gordon Tredgold – CEO & Managing Consultant at Leadership Principles LLC – “great leadership is about creating great relationships”.
1. Human Before a Leader
The 21st-century world is more connected, is accessible and digitally enabled, and is more efficient too. In the previous years, leadership curriculums and training programs enjoyed the exclusivity of training great minds into becoming greater influencers. We are now living in a present that is global and anything is only a touch away. This understanding makes us echo the necessary question posed by Rosalinde Torres: “What makes a great leader in the 21st century?”
According to Gordon Tredgold – CEO & Managing Consultant at Leadership Principles LLC – “great leadership is about creating great relationships”. When we hear the word relationship, our mind goes “networking”. But no, that’s not what Tredgold means here. In his leadership development experience, he’s placed great emphasis on developing supportive relationships with your team members, and inspiring them “to go above and beyond”.
He suggests for leaders to own up to their human element – the potential to make mistakes – and set the same example for their team to experience and follow. The idea of ‘we are in this together’ goes beyond the realms of sharing an organization, a shared vision, and having set objects. Today, leadership is about connectivity, relatability, and creating a working alliance that’s comfortable and unlimited to tasks and responsibilities.
Within the human element, another aspect of an impactful leader is their ability to collaborate. Cracking big ideas is a leadership quality of yesterday; today, the real value is in the open-ended discussion, and the ability to collaborate. As a leader, you come after your team, their input, and their experiences. A good idea for leading into leadership is to keep your sources of ideas (your team) welcome and encouraged.
2. Embracing Diversity & Equality
It is about developing connections with people who are different than you and those differences can be biological, physical, functional, political, cultural, and socio-economic, and despite these differences, they connect with you and cooperate with you in achieving the shared goal - Rosalinde Torres
Whilst we’re on the topic of working with your team, and not through them, let us touch upon another significant quality of a leader. A lesser talked about the quality of a leader, who does the job better, is their professional capacity to embrace their employees as their equal. In his viral Ted Talk, Derek Siver points out the courage it takes for a leader to be ridiculed but at the same time, he places special emphasis on the first follower. In his words, ‘the first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader’. It entails that equally important with the leadership, is their follower.
Dreaming big dreams, and objectifying mission and vision values are tasks associated with leadership. But it is really the team that makes the run for it and achieves the objectives. Without a follower, there would be no leader. So place any less emphasis on the significance of having a team. Thus, a leader must regard his team the same way he’d like to be regarded.
Rosalinde Torres, after having spent 25 years understanding multiple facets of leadership, is confident in stating that ‘connection’ is a leader’s real power. Networking is an understood expectation from a leader but it is different from the connection. She says, and we quote, “it is about developing connections with people who are different than you and those differences can be biological, physical, functional, political, cultural, and socio-economic, and despite these differences, they connect with you and cooperate with you in achieving the shared goal”.
Another aspect of equality in the workplace is creative freedom. Bosses who are uptight, demanding, and who like to dictate to the t get the perfect outcome. And why wouldn’t they; they have it all mapped out for their employees to follow. So getting your subordinates to do their job is not why a leader is leading meaningfully. It is when the leadership transpires and encourages freedom and liberty to bring new ideas to the table and also to materialize those ideas.
3. Creating a Growth Culture
The theoretical literature on the meaning and definition of culture is vast. However, it’s agreed upon that culture is a shared phenomenon that outlines group dynamics that exist outside of an individual. Culture defines what is accepted and unaccepted in a group. Similarly, culture shapes the social order of an organization and has the power to bring together the organizational mission and vision of the leadership with the knowledge and experience of their employees.
In an attempt to simplify its understanding, culture is more elusive and expressed not through the shared vision, but its administration from top-down. It is a reflection of a high-performing and empathetic leadership and reflects in employee’s satisfaction and motivation to work with the respective leaders at a given organization.
According to William Craig – Founder and President of WebFX – “leaders have a responsibility to demonstrate the beliefs of the company and reinforce behaviors that reflect those values. Your behaviors at work, your communication style, and how you handle wins and setbacks all affect company culture. You can't delegate creating the culture your employees’ experience. If you want to reflect particular values, demonstrate those values in your actions”.
Hence, it would be safe to say that culture and leadership are linked and together they form the foundational lever for facultative organizational values, alongside strategy. As someone once said and Harvard Business Review quotes, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. However, a strategy often gets higher regard and the cultural aspect of organizational vision, mission, and growth is often compartmentalized as part of HR’s job.
Unlike strategy – which is more objective, goal-oriented, and provides the collective action plan – culture is more anchored in spoken and unspoken words, behavior, and social patterns that form norms of the organization.
For a leader who is visionary, realistic, and also cares for his organization and its employees, it is crucial to understand many cultural layers that correspond around and through them. Whilst brainstorming and gathering views on culture, I