I was surprised but happy to hear an Exec Committee member say last week:
“As soon as I was made chair of the COVID-19 working group, I told the group I didn’t have all the answers.
I really needed their commitment and their help to find a way through”.
She explained that she wanted to tell the truth, but at the same time was concerned about the working group's confidence in a chair who didn’t know it all. She needn’t have worried. Her team found it inspiring and reassuring - and it represents a changing dynamic in leadership.
So why is leadership changing right now?
Many leaders of today have been schooled in an outdated version of leadership, described as the ‘hero leader’. This is the leader who’s always in front of their team, has all the answers and the confidence and experience to carry out their vision.
But this method of leadership just won’t work for today for 3 big reasons:
So how do you build a more credible, less heroic leadership style now?
(apart from not wearing your pants on the outside of your leisurewear…)
1. Show vulnerability – as the chair of the COVID-19 working group demonstrated, senior leaders can show vulnerability and be respected.
We tend to think of vulnerability as Kryptonite, when in fact it’s a superpower.
2. Be knowledge hungry – one of the best leaders I worked for proactively sought techniques and quotes from his peers, both inside and outside the organisation. He found things they were good at and asked them how they did it. Their learning and experience became his for the price of a large cappuccino or lunch.
3. Try a coaching approach – help those around you solve their own problems. Resist the ego trip of directing with your sage advice. Have a standard set of questions ready to help them explore who they have asked for opinion, what solutions they have considered and the benefits of those solutions. Then listen while they find clarity and decide their own actions. The win they’ll get from finding their own answer is huge. Trust me, I’m a coach!
4. Ask your team what they really need – it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you should just know. Specifically ask those who report to you what they might need to be more productive or more efficient or to create a better team spirit. And if you can do it for them, then do it.
This is an opportunity to redefine your leadership style and how your team see you.
And when you do, tell me how freeing it feels to ditch the superhero routine and become a more vulnerable, inspiring leader. You might just save the day.