We often say that being a leader is the most important job you can have. This isn’t just to flatter you. You are asked to give much of yourself and to the people around you. In return, you are rewarded with unlimited potential, influence and the ability to create positive change in organizations and in people’s lives.
But the requirements of being a good leader are changing. What has worked for past leaders and what even has worked for today’s leaders, will soon be outdated – if it is not already. It will require something new.
So what will be asked of the next round of up and coming successful leaders? What changes will you need to make to stay in your position and to also move ahead?
The Future of Leadership Is Not The Past
Over the years, I have been fortunate to work with major brands, taking care of the heritage of great leaders. Among them was cultural icon Walt Disney. “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing,” Walt Disney would say in his memoirs. ”That it was all started by a mouse.”
Another leader of mine also started out with a big dream and a mouse. Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs truly influenced me and helped form my own journey as a leader. I have to admit that my time at Apple was unforgettable in many ways.
But today, our work is focused on trying to peek into the future of leadership. We meet all kinds of fantastic leaders with a variety of backgrounds and ideas. With as much respect and admiration I have for their accomplishments, I often find myself wondering if leaders like Steve Jobs and Walt Disney would have succeeded today as they did in their times. Of course, this is just an experiment of thought. But they would be entering a dynamically changing market with new technology and a different breed of people – and a whole set of new demands of what constitutes good leadership. What worked 70, 40 and even 10 years ago, is no assurance that it will work today.
A Paradigm Shift Is Coming – why is this important for the Future of Leadership?
We see a paradigm shift coming to the future of leadership. There are so many things changing that there is no doubt the corporate world will radically change in the future. While we cannot predict exactly what the future holds, we can focus on at least these three important parameters:
We know at least these two statements to be true: Change will never be this slow again. Change is here to stay. Our choices? Resist change or embrace change. Which one will help you succeed?
Today, knowledge is a commodity. If you have access to the Internet, all there is to know is only a few seconds away. The real power becomes how you use this knowledge. One way is to learn how to utilize the combined knowledge of your team. Did you know that a team of skilled people that functions well together are able to solve almost any challenge? Together, they will by far outperform a bunch of clever people who do not know how to collaborate. Know how to create and foster a collective genius with your team.
Most people want to do a good job. They want to contribute. They like the feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves. Still, research from Gallup shows that only 13% are engaged at work. Why? Well, one way to reverse these numbers is by being clear on where you are going as a company. What is the purpose of what you are doing?. What is your contribution to society – beyond earning money?
Make sure that what you do are appealing to both the brain and heart of your employees.
The New Way of Working and the Future of Leadership
Future leaders need to create engagement. When only 13% on average say they are engaged at work – there is a HUGE potential for you to tap into. Make sure that you create a super-engaged team by knowing where you are heading. Create “A Living Strategy,” a plan of action that seeks “buy-in” from your team and draws them into your mission. The key to attracting engagement is involvement. People who are involved feel ownership and find purpose in what they are doing.
Shift of Perception
The new way of working includes a shift of perception. As leaders, we must stop thinking that “I must fix this.” Instead, start thinking: “We can fix this together.” We like to call this dynamic Involving Leadership or the “Human Side Of Strategy.” It is probably the most important thing you, as a future leader, can focus on.
If you at some time have played in a band, you know by experience that one reason why the band sounds good (or not) is due to their level of collaboration; how well do the musicians play together. How are they using the power of teams?
It doesn’t matter if some of the group’s members were born rock stars if the band is not able to use this talent for the best of the team. What musicians in a band spend quite some time on, is practicing playing together. That’s the only way they can tap into their potential as a team. This makes sense – right?
So – why are so many leaders failing to use ‘the power of teams’?
Today most leaders agree that the biggest asset in every organization is the people. But there is a vast difference between how this asset is put to use. This is the reason why some leaders have a solid team who can take on ANY new challenge with a positive attitude, and seem to always find the right solution. In contrast, other leaders are in charge of teams where conflicts, misunderstanding, and disagreements are a natural part of everyday life at work.
We always like to look at the team like a “collective genius.” This description conjures up an image of a really big brain consisting of the combined knowledge, experience and creativity of all the smart people on your team. At any time, you can tap into the “collective genius” – and the results will far exceed any individual contribution.
But this is not something that happens randomly, the more structured you work with your team, the more power you can gain from it.
Let us share with you a few success factors to fuel the power of teams:
1) Learn some tools and processes that makes collaboration effective and easy.
To use the power of many, you need to know how to collaborate. In tomorrow’s business world, it will be hard for future leaders to survive if they do not know how to tap into the combined brainpower of their team. You can start by understanding the difference between the process and the content.
The process is what brings you from A to Z. The content is what you put into it, and create and change along the way.
A structured process will help you to avoid total chaos. It gives you a framework so that you and all involved will know when you are open for input, when you can rationalize ideas and when you should make decisions. A structured process does NOT mean that everyone is involved all the time. You as the leader involve the people you need at the right time. But you should never go through the entire process alone.
2) Embrace heterogeneity
It is common to think that people who are alike collaborate better. However, we see that a byproduct of a team composed of like-minded individuals is a team with less power. A heterogenic team, on the other hand, consists of people with different backgrounds and experiences. This serves as a goldmine!
You should strive for a multigenerational, international, multi-ethnic team with a mix of both genders – as often as you can.
This view is supported by research. And in EY’s blog ‘The New Rules of Leadership‘ we can even read that ‘research even shows that heterogeneous teams solved complex tasks better than homogeneous teams’.
And if a mixed team is not an option, make sure to use methods that ensures a variety of viewpoints. We promise that this will give you better solutions and a broader perspective – as long as you know how to collaborate in an effective way (hint: methods, tools, and processes).
When we grow up, we tend to start rationalizing how much and how often we need to practice something in order to master it.
How often haven’t we tried something new and fallen into this trap: Tried it once – didn’t work. Tried it twice – didn’t work. Conclusion: It will never work. Imagine doing this with our children. We want them to learn how to walk, talk or write – but we only gave them two or three attempts?
After their toddler years, kids continue learning – playing an instrument, for example, or getting good at sports. You see they quickly become experienced at how practicing actually works with their conscious mind. Yet, when we get older, we expect things to happen all at once – if not we give up. Well, you probably get the concept of practicing. If you do something over and over again – you will become better at it. This is also true when it comes to collaboration and creating a collective genius. You will become a better leader, and you will start to enjoy the real power of your team.
So – where to start using the power of teams?
Think about ONE challenge you have at work that would really benefit from being solved by a cross-functional team. Either because the solution will be better OR because involving people in the solution will make them more committed and engaged in the solution.
Try solve the challenge together! Then take on a new challenge. Think like a band. Never stop practicing on your collaboration skills. Play it!
Like this? You can read more about collaboration in the blog “Why You’ll LOVE being an Involving Leader”
Albert Einstein once said that the most important question we can ask each other is this one: ”Is the universe a friendly place?”
The reason why this is the most important question to ask, is because the answer to this questions indicates whether we are building bridges to connect with each other or walls to defend ourselves.
Think about this for a moment…
How much more important isn’t it to build bridges instead of walls if we want this world to evolve? And this is exactly what we did together this Tuesday morning when we met for the very first public BrainTalk.
We have now launched what will become a series of BrainTalks with the intention of facilitating a place where leaders and changemakers can meet, both online and live. Here we can share thoughts and gain insights, and hopefully get more inspired, motivated and enabled. Our purpose is to create a better corporate world for leaders and their many employees, and this starts by engaging the hearts and brains of great minded people in a collective way. The theme this time was
”Purpose – the WHY of what we’re doing”:
In a short and (hopefully) sweet BrainTalk we shared our view on why this is important for the time we live in, and why it will become even more important in the times we are heading into.
(Read more about purpose and the importance of WHY in our blog in Huffington Post: Purpose – Beyond Earning Money).
The collective genius!
The strongest asset we have is the ability to collaborate. By being both active participants and active listeners at the same time we can upgrade our knowledge about a topic in no time.
The groups spent time working on a BrainGame challenge, together reflecting over the question:
”How can an emotional connected purpose help leading change?”
Through an intense and engaging process, the teams compiled a list of several suggestions, ultimately breaking it down to the two deemed most important by each team, which were shared with all of us. These are the findings:
A mutual understanding for a common goal makes change easier.
When everyone knows where they are heading it is easier to focus on the long term benefits rather than the short term challenges. In addition, research supports the fact that people or organizations with a clear goal are more successful.
It creates a feeling of belonging and we-ness.
Most people get energy and find meaning by being part of something bigger than themselves. Defining a common goal creates a sense of belonging, because it differs between those who are ‘in on the project’ and those who are not.
It establishes a common focus for the executive team, so they will know it if they are drifting in the wrong direction.
When a purpose is defined, it is extremely important to anchor this through actions and plans reflected in the strategic platform of the organization. This will make it easier to know what to do and what not to do in times ahead.
The journey of creating an emotional connected purpose is very valuable for those involved.
This is both due to the fact that people usually like to be involved in matters of importance, but also because the purpose itself gets anchored with the participants throughout the process. Even though an involving process might take some more time in the development phase, this is by far an investment worthwhile when considering the speed of implementation at a later stage in the process.
An emotional connected purpose creates intrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation is connected to positive emotions. Research by Harvard Professor Teresa Amabile shows that “people are more productive, creative, committed and collegial when they have positive emotions and thoughts about the work and when they are motivated by intrinsic interest in the work itself.”
It also makes it easier and more fun to reach the goals that are established.
When the purpose serves as a base for strategic decisions there will also be emotions connected with reaching these goals. This is also related to the progress principle – that progress in itself is motivating for those involved.
Trust vs fear for change.
An emotional connected purpose makes it easier to trust the end goal, the people on your team and even the process itself.
More acceptance for change (even for the changes that are harder to accept).
We might not be aware of it, but we – humans that is – have a natural tendency to resist change. This is due to biological factors like homeostasis (you can read more about this in our blog “How To Lead Change”). One way to lessen this resistance is to be clear on why we do what we do – our purpose.
When emotions are involved, we feel more important, too.
Emotions are a strong part of our being. By working towards a common goal, fulfilling a purpose that we can identify with, it is easier to see how our contribution is valuable.
A sense of community is emotional.
Having a purpose that people can identify with creates a feeling of community, like being part of a team with strong bonds who can support each other and fight together against possible threats from the outer world.
Honesty – be who you are.
Knowing your purpose is important in order to be authentic and not operate on false premises. Authenticity and openness are, and will continue to be, important parts of the corporate life in the years ahead.
Transparency – helps you get rid of ‘the trolls’.
There might be people in an organization or on a team who have their own agenda or do not believe in the WHY of what you are doing. This creates disengagement and sometimes even result in having people on your team sabotaging what you try to accomplish. Even if it might be a tough call, it is better to let people like that go, both for the sake of the remaining people on the team and for themselves. This way they can use their energy another place that fits their purpose better. You can read about how to deal with disengagement in teams in the blog post “What is the cost of your leadership”.
That’s it! And – WOW! – this is what’s cool about tapping into the collective genius of a team. After just a short time of working together in a systematic way, we can present impressive result while we at the same time get more enlightened.
So, let’s jump back to Albert Einstein for a moment. He introduced an important question. In the corporate world there’s yet another question that is imperative to ask: Do we have an emotional connected purpose?
Even though a strong purpose might not be the answer to all the challenges and changes we see in the corporate world today, it is for sure an important part of building a strong organization fit for the future. Any organization with a clear purpose will benefit from the power of many.
Missed our latest BrainTalk? Don’t worry, – there will be more to come!
If you want more info about our BrainTalks and get invited to the next one, please register here.