No one is disputing the fact that leadership matters. In fact, there has never been a more critical time where leadership matters more than it does today.

We can see all around us that right now, leaders are grappling with how they can lead with the sort of courage, conviction and care that will ensure they emerge stronger – for themselves, their people and their businesses. And that’s not that easy for leaders typically driven by control and decision making. However, what they are realising is that they cannot carry the burden and expectation placed on them to lead with grace. Leaders are experiencing an unsustainable level of real and overwhelming vulnerability.

Dear ol’ Shakespeare got it so right all those years ago when he penned Henry IV and wrote,

“Heavy is the head that wears the crown.”

So what can we do to make sure leaders don’t carry the burden alone? How can we offer support without them losing face? How do we show them they are not alone – and they don’t have to have all the answers?

For starters, we need to make sure their people become part of the solution and include them.

First, let’s start with WHY this is critical.

  1. Leaders are overwhelmed with unprecedented demands on their time, knowledge and capacity to lead their people in a virtual and real-time environment. Twelve months on from the global pandemic, it is evident that sustaining the pace and intensity is untenable and completely unrealistic – emotionally and physically. People are experiencing post-traumatic stress and extreme fatigue and cannot make decisions with the same level of confidence they had in the past. The cost – human and financial – is immeasurable.
  2. Many leaders are unaccustomed to ‘pressing the help’ button, reluctant to disclose they don’t have all the answers for their staff or business challenges. With so many things outside their control right now, some cannot grasp which direction to go, whom to speak to, and what the future will look like in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world. We have to find new and positive ways to interact and support each other or lose good people and damage work cultures.
  3. Leaders recognise that they are not the only ones who have insight into some of the challenges they face. And, their teams have proven they can be highly productive, trusted and responsive working from anywhere. As a consequence, many leaders feel they are losing their identity as a leader. It’s essential to reset the thinking and bring people together or risk morale going down the drain.

Now, let’s look at WHAT leaders can do.

  1. Let individuals know their support is welcome, and they are keen to give them a voice and opportunity to co-create ways of working and solutions.
  2. Invite individuals to share their views, opinions and perspectives on adding value and impact to the business.
  3. Document and distribute the outcomes with a timeline for action.

Now let the games begin with the HOW!

As we’ve said, there has never been a more critical time than now to really connect and collaborate with staff, colleagues, peers and associates. In challenging times the most effective way to do this is to introduce more fun, more conversations and more open discussion about how we work and how we can improve outcomes. After a year that most people want to forget, we need to move into more positive conversations and mindsets.

In the busy-ness of everyday work, it’s hard enough to find time to get through your job, much less reflect on what we can do better. But when we fail to make time to get the basics right, it’s no wonder the other stuff often falls over.

Today’s leaders need to take space, time and permission to talk, ask and think out loud, to harness the collective intelligence and skills within their organisation.

These ideas will help you lead while your people follow – and learn to lead themselves.

  • Discuss the importance of bringing conversations into the open and how this opportunity allows everyone to contribute to a better future.
  • Encourage your people to be confident in sharing their ideas and create a priority list of what they (and others) will do to support the changes.
  • Allow people enough time to implement agreed actions, so they know their contributions are valued.
  • Don’t spend too much time or energy dwelling on the past. Instead, focus on how to do things better.

While these ideas may seem simple, it takes courage and commitment to bring to the surface those underlying issues that are not often discussed and rarely challenged.

And to lift performance rather than your blood pressure, pay attention to soft skills such as communication, and focus on Active Listening and Active Looking.

Where do you start?

To kick-start a conversation about how we work and can improve outcomes through more positive conversations and mindsets, download the DIY Leadership Conversation Quickstart.

About the Author

Ricky Nowak (MAICD, CSP) is a highly versatile, talented and entertaining female speaker, facilitator/trainer and Emcee with over 25 years’ experience working with high-performance individuals, teams and businesses. Ricky has partnered with Hargraves Institute, Australia’s leading community of practice for innovation and collaboration, to produce leadership tools based on the Leadership in Three Words  concept.

Combining her solid credentials as a Certified Speaking Professional, Stakeholder Engagement Coach and Certified Human Resource Professional, she helps her clients achieve solid transformations for themselves, their organisations, stakeholders and people. Her extensive corporate experience with leading companies in the APAC region has helped clients improve their leadership capability and brand, improve their staff retention and engagement, enhance their reputation, and dramatically increase performance and productivity levels.

Ricky is one of the selected coaches for  Women In Banking and Finance, Advisory and Mentoring (Singapore), and the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Her opinion on leadership is sought after by business media, and she contributes to many business journals and articles globally. She is the author of four successful business books “How to Make Good People Great Leaders… and reap the rewards” and “The Integrity Factor – Why Business Rules in Business and Leadership”  and “Boost Your Success”  Leadership, Communication and Presentation Strategies for High Achievers” and “Leadership in Three Words”.

She has worked with some of APAC’s Top 100 companies ranging from Legal, Accounting, Finance and Banking, IT, Building and Construction, Urban Design, and Project Management. She is acknowledged as an expert facilitator, coach and Panel Moderator.


Featured image via Pixabay