Guest post by Jill Bausch author of Why Brave Women Win
Do you have an ambition to go another rung up the ladder or are you already at the top? Have you considered the pitfalls that might hinder your path to the top? Everyone with leadership ambition is on a learning track and leadership skills aren’t always natural, but most can be learned. I believe we’re all in agreement that we’re living through turbulent times.
How to Be a Lasting Leader in Turbulent Times, Why Brave Women Win
The world economies are on a knife edge, the geo-political environment almost everywhere is on very unstable ground, and we’re just trying to hang on. You are probably a leader in more ways than you know: you run a department or a
company, or you run a family or a community group, and you influence your friends.
So how can we be the leaders in these turbulent times, when tectonic plates are shifting under us daily? Here’s your checklist for what NOT to do as a leader. Recognise these in yourself and become a better leader instantly.
1. Make Sure You’re Really Truly Listening
Everyone wants to feel heard, whether you are just coming on to the work ladder or already at the top, whether you’re the baby in the family or the parent. That doesn’t mean that every idea you have should be shared or every thought you have will be acted upon. But good leaders find time to listen fully and without distraction. Do you listen with full attention? Do you listen fully without interrupting and then ask insightful questions about what you heard? If you don’t, people eventually won’t want to follow you.
2 Show Up, Stand Up, Speak Up
Countless studies tell us that the exemplary leaders show others they have uncertain moments and flaws. To be an authentic leader you must show some of your real self, what you are working on to improve and how important this is for all of us to practice. You can keep professional boundaries, but show that you, too, are a real and fallible person, just like everybody else. Everyone reading this, at this moment stand up if you have never been wrong.
Most of you didn’t stand I’ll bet. Now ask yourself how often to you say, “I apologise, I was wrong.” In a world of pain, use your power for good. Sometimes that means showing you are fallible, and therefore human.
2. Work on Your Empathy
We all know business leaders that got to the top of their game by rolling over others. Is that what you want your legacy to be? In 2022 most of us don’t; we want the balance between achieving goals and caring about others. These are two qualities to be admired and if you show you have balance between them your tribe will be behind you. If you’re not sure if you really understand empathy, take an emotional intelligence assessment, easily found online. If you’re low, get practicing new behaviours to learn to be more empathetic in turbulent times and ever after.
3. Learn Not to Fear change
We live with change, perhaps too much change in our daily lives and we all seek some sense of stability. However, if your team feel you are inflexible, they won’t bring new ideas, innovation or positive change to you, and the pack will start to seek others who are more open to change than you are. Embrace the ideas that come to you. Be open. This doesn’t mean you have to accept and act on them all. Read the section above about people just wanting to be heard.
4. Don’t Practice Avoidance Behaviour
We all know that lovely, sweet, kind person who avoids unpleasant or tough topics. Those are not the ones that end up being leaders. Being nice and kind does not mean being weak. The best leaders have the strength of character to face problems, calculate risk, deal with problems head- on and face the tough stuff. If tough decisions are dealt with using a high dose of empathy with others, you will be a leader who others want to follow because you’ll be getting results and we all want to be on a winning team.
5. Remember, it’s NOT all about YOU
Remember that time in your early career when you did all the work for the report, or the presentation and the boss’s name was the only one on it? Remember how you felt when you saw the ‘thank you’ emails they got and you were copied on, knowing it was you who did all the work? That person did not encourage you to follow them as a leader, but you can learn from how they handled that.
When you share the credit, show humility, let others shine by being recognised, you’re not only prepping the leaders of tomorrow but you’re showing your authentic self, your empathy, and your evident leadership qualities by being a part of it, not just being the head of the team.
6. Practice the More of/Less of Game
My ‘More of/Less of’ tool is a great way to get straight but candid feedback and costs you nothing but your time. List the behaviours above (or others important in your workplace) and ask your key colleagues to fill in a short form with a tick box next to each, asking if they notice these behaviours in you. Have a column that says, ‘More of’ and a column ‘Less of’. Give some space for them to make a few notes in the column saying they would like to see more of and less of regarding this behaviour.
You’re likely to get some great honest feedback that will propel you on your leadership path. You can ask for this to be done anonymously (some people with be more candid with anonymity) or you can do it verbally one on one and in a two-way format with key team members. You’ll also get that residual benefit of them having what we all want – to feel heard.
Jill Bausch is the former CEO of Futures Group Europe, a coach, philanthropic strategist, facilitator, social impact advisor and author of Why Brave Women Win
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