The EFMD business magazine

The EFMD business magazine

The importance of creating leadership momentum

How to lead and create a way forward in a fast-moving and ambiguous world.

Developing leaders

It’s clear that we now live in a world full of confusion, ambiguity and disruption. The pace of change has outstripped our ability to keep up with it. Things don’t seem to work the same way anymore. It’s like someone has changed the rules on how to lead. Back in the day, we were taught to be decisive, to give clarity, to drive results.

The challenge now is how do we do that if we are unsure of the way forward?

The way we develop our leaders needs to be updated. We can’t expect them to learn leadership as if they were still at school being taught by subject matter experts, where every subject had a separate teacher, in a separate classroom, sharing their passion and narrow expertise. Yet today’s universities and business schools are still using this model.

The Strategy Professor says that the most important thing in business is a good strategy, then another will say that culture eats strategy for breakfast! The Finance Professor says it’s all about the numbers, and the Marketing Professor emphasises the importance of marketing… and so it goes on. Unfortunately, our world doesn’t separate that easily. It’s never “OR thinking”; it’s always “AND thinking” that counts.

Strategy, culture, finance, operations, marketing, and innovation are all important. And other elements are too. Which presents a challenge when we take the complexity of leadership, decode it, and simplify it.

If we are going to give leaders a chance going forward, we need to break things down into a number of key disciplines and create a framework to translate the disciplines into action and a way of working.

A New Leadership Manifesto

The New Leadership Manifesto addresses this problem. It is based on more than 27 years of developing over 85,000 of the world’s best leaders for all different cultures and contexts, researching, debating and exploring what great leadership looks like.

It has been decoded into a clear set of ten disciplines based on what leaders actually do in today’s world.

1. They create a high-performance environment where success is inevitable
2. They awaken possibility in people to deliver extraordinary results
3. They operate with boldness, simplicity and speed
4. They understand themselves and have a story to tell
5. They inspire action
6. They create high-performance teams
7. They innovate
8. They manage ambiguity and kill risk
9. They educate
10. They deliver with pace

Living the disciplines

To live these disciplines, leaders need to be 100% authentic in their leadership brand, building on strengths. They are happy being vulnerable and can be themselves, sharing their leadership philosophy. This builds trust and a positive, healthy and happy environment.

The purpose is at the heart of everything good leaders do. They are bold and have the courage to go out on a limb when needed. They use stories and examples to give meaning and inspire action, creating a real sense of value. Teamwork comes naturally to them as they are comfortable with collaboration, empowerment and autonomy.

The culture they create encourages people to come up with great ideas to add value and improve performance. They innovate in every aspect of business and are relentless discoverers, exploiting technology and platforms. In a rapidly changing world, they have to be mentally tough and resilient and be comfortable with paradoxes.

A good leader helps people and the organisation to learn by inspiring curiosity and developing and nurturing capability. They lead with questions and only tell people the answers when the direction is absolutely needed. They translate strategy into the meaning and inspire action, delivering through people and teams.

Leaders cannot just pay lip service to these disciplines. They need to adopt a way of working, a way of creating routines and rituals, that is based on a set. As a result of many great discussions and conversations with leading practitioners and many workshops focused on decoding what leadership should look like in the future, “The Leadership Flywheel” was invented.

This is a practical approach that can be adjusted depending on the context and situation of the leader. The core is a leadership philosophy of making a positive impact on our world. Leaders do this by being themselves, being collaborative and being impactful, leaving a positive legacy.

Here is how they do it:

Making a Positive Difference

Great leaders make a positive difference to people’s lives by creating a high-performance environment where success is inevitable and performance can flourish. They awaken the possibility in people to deliver extraordinary results. They care, build confidence and inspire action.

They do this by being purpose-led. For an increasing number of businesses and their employees, the pursuit of profit is no longer enough. It’s about purpose and profit.

Leadership questions to think about:

  • What are you doing to make a positive difference in people’s lives?
  • What’s your leadership purpose?
  • What’s your legacy?

Being Yourself

In order to make an impact and leave a legacy, leaders have to be trusted first. They need to be able to build an authentic leadership brand.

By being themselves, leaders will develop greater trust, better collaboration and ultimately enable their success. As proposed by Goffee and Jones, they must answer the question, “Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?”

“Being more you, with skill” is key advice. It’s about playing to leaders’ strengths, developing their skills and making sure they use them.

Leadership questions to think about:

  • What is your leadership brand?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What is your story?
  • What is your leadership philosophy?
  • What are your purpose and values?

Being collaborative

In today’s world, it’s not possible for leaders to have all the answers. They need to work with others and collaborate to achieve success. They do this by being well networked with groups of people inside and outside of their organisations. Open innovation is becoming vital for their success.

There is also a rise in the need for conversational leaders, leaders who can run great meetings and workshops, ensuring they add value. They also need to be comfortable working with remote and virtual teams.

Leaders need to be able to create high-performance teams and sustain team performance, creating teams which can grab opportunities, solve problems and innovate quickly.
In today’s world, leaders are no longer the subject-matter experts, with all the answers. Instead, they need to be the owners of the process.

Leadership questions to think about:

  • Do I have a range of collaboration tools?
  • Have I developed my dialogue and conversational skills?
  • Do I develop high-performing teams?
  • Do I sustain high performance?
  • Do I craft solutions?

Being impactful

There is where “The 10 Leadership Disciplines of The New Leadership Manifesto” comes into play. It is about personal productivity and the ability to influence and persuade others in order to get things done.
Being yourself and being collaborative will of course help, but the most critical action for leaders is to be clear on what they should be doing and creating momentum in that direction.

Being yourself and being collaborative will of course help, but the most critical action for leaders is to be clear on what they should be doing and creating momentum in that direction.

Leadership questions to think about:

  • Do I translate strategy to action by giving meaning?
  • Do I start with explaining ‘why’ first rather than ‘what’ we need to do first?
  • Do I hold people accountable?
  • Do I ensure people are engaged and enabled?
  • Do I regularly review and develop actions?

Pulling all this together

The key question is how to make all this work. How to translate it all to action. This is where the Leadership Flywheel comes in. The Leadership Flywheel is a continuous process of reviewing, previewing and learning.

Here is how you apply it as a leader.

It starts with understanding the context you are in – knowing who you are, why you do what you do, what you should be doing and how to do it.

Once you are clear about that, you need to know how to build winning teams. You know how to create and sustain high-performance teams. Once the team is in place you can collaboratively create a winning strategy and agile plan. Then communicate it with meaning to all stakeholders.

Next, you need to align the system to the plan using systems thinking. Gain momentum through your ways of working: learning, evaluating ideas, deciding on what to implement and then delivering the improvements at pace. It’s then about building momentum by focusing on your strengths, evolving, innovating, and going again.

That’s how to create success in today’s world.

See more articles from Vol.15 Issue 01 – ’21: Human approach to leadership.

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