The way we think about leadership has evolved. The old command and control model of leadership is becoming a thing of the past, and leadership has become a practice of both the head and the heart. Nowadays, leaders must have an acute focus on motivating, engaging, and inspiring individuals and teams. They must enable agility, build resilience, and drive productivity while navigating increasingly complex and changing organizational structures, markets, and stakeholders. Overall, successful leaders in today’s world view the empowerment of people as more important than their own positions of power.
Nature vs nurture
While “natural-born” leaders do exist, many more are thoughtfully “made.” In other words, leadership can be learned. The new leadership paradigm is based on skills like resilience, agility, empathy, communication, and a growth mindset. Today, competencies traditionally viewed as “soft skills” have gained a new name befitting their importance: “power skills.” And, in our Skillsoft 2022 IT Skills and Salary report, the single most important skill for IT leaders is team communication, followed by interpersonal communication. These skills are top assets in today’s workplace and 63 per cent of employers would hire someone with power skills and then train them on the technical aspects of the job.
The DEI element
There is a renewed focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). As a result, leaders need to acknowledge that they are not just responsible for the bottom-line results. They also hold the keys to activating diversity of thought and inclusion among their teams and broader organization. Research has found that teams with inclusive leaders are 17% more likely to report that they are high performing, 20% more likely to say that they make high-quality decisions, and 29% more likely to report behaving collaboratively. Further, the behaviors of leaders can drive up to 70 percentage points of difference between the proportion of employees who feel highly included, and those who do not.
Leading from the heart
Leading from the heart means empowering everyone to bring their best to the table — by creating a healthy work environment that fosters growth, belonging, productivity, and innovation. To combat the labor shortage and economic slowdown, it’s important to recognize and nurture the leadership potential that already exists within your organization, by making learning accessible to all.
The 4-A competencies
While there are many key elements leaders need to establish themselves as able leaders, it is important for them to focus on the 4-A competencies:
- Awareness: The ability to self-assess, seek feedback, reflect, and adopt new behaviors consistently. This competency requires a growth mindset, a curiosity for continuous learning and improvement, and a willingness to identify and eliminate bias.
- Agility: This competency is the unique ability to determine when to pivot and when to persevere. Leaders must align, equip, and sustain change positively for their teams. Agility requires personal resilience and a flexible leadership style based on the needs of a particular moment.
- Authenticity: Being authentic is the ability to inspire inclusively with emotional intelligence and strategic transparency. This competency requires courage, a strong sense of purpose, and vulnerability. Authentic leaders engage and inspire others with integrity, intention, and a shared purpose. It is the ability to accept that leaders do not have all the answers and need to lean into their network to learn and grow daily.
- Accountability: This is the ability to hold oneself answerable first. Leadership accountability requires leaders to become role models and provide a healthy sense of ownership in ways that empower others to do the same. They welcome and celebrate victories and failures and enable a growth mindset on their teams.
An inspirational leader can influence positive behavior, while a bad leader can cause severe damage to the organization. Remember: A leader’s true “superpower” comes not from an iron fist, but from an open hand — and an open mind.
(The author is Ms. Rashim Mogha, GM of Leadership & Business, Skillsoft and the views expressed in this article are her own)