People on a continual quest for self-improvement and personal development will spend time reading about the qualities that they should cultivate in order to become not just good leaders, but great leaders. Characteristics like strength, the ability to make tough decisions in the moment, and a knack for getting results when it really counts. But these personal traits aren’t necessarily perennial; they’re often fashions or trends, and some come and go faster than others.
What’s trending right now in the world of leadership are two related concepts: resilience and agility. We sure do hear a lot about the importance of being agile in the corporate world, and of course being ever-ready to switch lanes at any moment builds resilience like nothing else will. But agility is top of the leadership charts in 2019 so far.
For us at Insights, agility is much more than just the latest leadership trend – it’s an absolute imperative that sits at the heart of how strong leaders show up, and it’s always been at the core of our work with leaders in global organisations. In fact, we’ve been talking about it for so long that we’ve got our own language around agility.
We call it adapting and connecting.
Leaders have to adapt in order to connect
In a broader business context, agility is linked to strategic decision-making and a willingness to replace what isn’t working with a strategy that does. It’s about instigating shifts that may be difficult but are tied to the necessary long-term success that the organisations needs in order to survive. But up there at the blue-sky strategic level, disconnected from the daily experience of the people on the front lines of your business, is not where real agility begins. As is reflected in the work we do with leaders, we believe that agility – what we call adapting and connecting – begins with awareness, both self-awareness, and awareness of others. We teach leaders to adapt their approach to others, in order to connect better with them.
That means, firstly, taking the time to truly understand yourself, both as a person and as a leader. Where are you really great, and where you could stand to develop your skills a little more? What traits come naturally to you, and what are you not so hot on, that the team needs from you? Those are just some of the questions that upping your self-awareness game will help you to answer.
And if you also develop your awareness of others, you can begin to understand what every person you lead is great at, struggles with, needs from you, wants from you, and crucially, how they experience you as a leader – because it’s not necessarily how you think it is.
Adapt to connect and get the best results
That level of understanding, both of yourself, and of those you must inspire with your leadership, sets you up to become the leader that you need to be, to every single individual that you lead. Because you now understand that Sarah is motivated not by your private thanks, but by more public acknowledgement, you can save your praise for the next team meeting and share your thanks then for the project she knocked out of the park. Now you understand that some people on your team find your big-picture vision intimidating and untethered to reality, you’ll remember to give them the detail they’ve been looking for all along. And when you know that while others appreciate your soccer mom approach, others are looking for a leadership style with a little more gravitas and credibility, you can work on showing up for them as a leader they’d be proud to get behind.
Your awareness will drive your agility ability, so that you can adapt your approach, not once and for all, but in every single interaction you have with others. Adapting and connecting allows you to constantly recalibrate your style to best appeal to the people in the room, making positive outcomes, decreased confrontation, and a strong performance all that much more likely. Now that’s a trend for 2019 that we can really get behind