John C. Maxwell states that “leadership is influence; nothing more, nothing less.” As a leader, I feel so accomplished to have successfully led my team out of unchartered waters during the pandemic. Equally happy to report that our business is now way more agile and better repositioned to embark on exciting new growth opportunities.
Upon reflection, the ability to successfully navigate this storm came down to two key leadership competencies; the ability to make tough decisions and my ability as the leader to evoke and instill the confidence of the team through my level of influence. The pandemic certainly reaffirmed to me that the leader’s sole responsibility is to “lead”.
It takes versatility in leadership style to lead in this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambitious world (VUCA). In a Harvard Business Review entitled “It Takes Versatility to Lead in a Volatile World”, the authors argued that “they believe versatility is the master capability for leading in a VUCA world. Versatility is an even stronger component of effective leadership now than before. Some circumstances call for leaders to take charge, make tough decisions or simply enabling collaboration and support of the other leaders within the organization, while other circumstances call for them to fall back and allow others to take charge.”
For the last 12 years, I have had the great fortune of working with a very dynamic and effective leader, John Williams. ln so many situations, he has proven that he knows how to lead and the importance of effective leadership. His leadership style is impeccable and has influenced my own leadership journey during the last decade. If there is one thing I have learnt from his stewardship it is that as leaders we need to know when to step forward, when to step back and when to exercise side-by-side leadership.
Versatility in leadership allows leaders to respond to the varying operational issues facing the business, as well as the development needs of our respective team members. Truthfully, I have learnt that while transparency in process is required, each of our team members at times requires something different from us as the leader. In my own career, I have benefited from clear communication of the strategy and then being given the space to focus on execution, while my leaders remain accessible for guidance and direction. Others may flourish better with closer supervision and ongoing collaboration.
Defining Leadership Success
As leaders, we have an obligation to get to know our direct reports so that we can better understand what they need from us in order to stimulate their growth. This allows us to create an environment that fosters the team’s ability to learn, share, grow and fail forward as part of their career journey. Leadership is about communicating the vision, while offering strategic direction that charts execution of the mission at hand. As we seek to create productive work environments for our teams, it helps to always remember that leadership is about serving others.
Your level of success in leadership is ultimately defined by a collection of results over time. Ironically, these results are largely achieved through consistency in the performance of the people under your stewardship. How effective you are at rallying the team to produce good results is what will determine your leadership success. In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins refers to Level 4 in the Leadership Hierarchy as being an “Effective Leader”. He articulates that once you reach this level you have finally acquired “the ability to catapult commitment to and vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision, thereby stimulating higher performance standards.”
One of the real leadership challenges we face in leading our teams is knowing which position we need to assume and what circumstances dictate the varying leadership postures that can be considered. Harvard Business Review authors also suggested that most leaders are more comfortable with one set of behaviors and this creates blind spots and limits versatility.
Versatility in Leadership
Regardless of the level of expertise of your team, as the leader there are some situations that will require you to step forward and lead from the front. The situation may warrant greater visibility of the leader in order to bring confidence to the situation and to strengthen the atmosphere of negotiation in the room. The leader’s natural ability to influence offers a higher chance at achieving the desired outcome, while setting the right example of leadership through empowerment and coaching of the wider team.
In contrast, there are times when as leaders we need to fall back and offer direction while allowing other team members to assume a leading role. This allows for development of core leadership skills of other team members and highlights trust in their abilities to lead the charge; also a critical leadership assessment for succession planning. There is a leadership theory that suggests that leaders should only spend time on tasks that no one else on the team can complete. The goal is to give your team the ability to develop and hone in their own skills, while building up their own leadership capacity.
Equally, some situations will require the leader to walk side-by-side with the team in order to achieve the desired results. Many times this calls for the leader to dive right in and roll up their sleeves to support the organizational goal and team efforts. As leaders, we must always remember that the best leadership example we can offer our teams is in how we show up; our drive, our passion and our energy to get things done. It is our actions that truly inspire others to aspire to do more, to learn more and to become more.
As experts continue to argue that true leaders never stop learning, this presents some hope for seasoned leaders like myself to consider the leadership style shift that may be required to practice more versatility in their leadership. Furthermore, from my own experience dealing with millennials in the workplace, versatility in leadership style may become even more relevant if we are to retain, mold and develop good talent.
For more content on leadership and other professional and personal development topics, look out for my new podcast “From A Leaders Perspective” coming soon to Spotify.
One thought on “Leaders Lead”
I want more! Lol!