leadership

by Minter Dial

There have been many articles and pundits bemoaning a lack of good leadership. In politics, business or society in general, the past few years have certainly tested leaders around the world. Whether it is termed as a crisis in leadership, a lack of direction or a confused moral compass, many leaders are indeed struggling to manage. Compounding the challenging economic environment, sanitary concerns and a burgeoning existential crisis, there’s been the impact of many new technologies, calls for transparency and the fact that everyone has a horn to toot (social media). What does it take to be a good leader in such times? There are three things every leader needs to consider.

You lead you

As much as leadership is all about influencing those around you, it starts with you. You lead you. By learning to lead yourself and exhibiting the behaviours you wish others to follow, you are better equipped to influence and lead. One of the key areas, that has become far more apparent through the pandemic is the need to manage one’s energies. As such, it’s vital for you as a leader to know yourself better, to lean into your own emotions and to make sure to take care of yourself, mentally and physically. As Rebecca Macieira-Kaufmann and Lilian So explain in their brand new book, FitCEO, you need to be on top of your own game in order to lead and influence others effectively.

Three things you can do:

  1. Practice being still to listen to yourself and your breath. I use Monique Rhodes’ TenMinuteMind for my guided meditation every morning.
  2. Cultivate a regular routine of doing physical activities, such as walking, yoga, sports.
  3. With help from your circle of ‘tough love’ friends, determine your strengths and weaknesses, especially as it concerns the way you manage your relationships (at work and at home). By gaining a deeper understanding of yourself, you’ll know how to compensate for the chips on the shoulder or avoid being triggered.

Be in touch with your Northerly heading

In an environment where we’re constantly being buffeted by bad news, challenges we’ve never been faced with and a clouded (if not crowded) future, leaders need to know how to steer a business with nimble decision-making. If you’re always doing things by committee, it takes too long. If it’s by the seat of your pants, it’s perilous. In order to navigate through these challenging times, it’s best to have created a North Star setting, a filter through which to decipher events and make strategic choices. The more in touch with your North Star setting, the more evident the choices become. Importantly, the North Star also helps eliminate options that might appear nice-to-have but don’t fit with the plan.

Three things you can do:

  1. Spend time on figuring out your own personal North Star setting. This can be in the form of a phrase or sentence. It should be the lightening rod – and a moral compass – by which you make all the important decisions.
  2. If your business has a North Star (or ‘purpose’), find the crossovers with your own personal setting. This will help you to generate more discretionary energy within yourself.
  3. If your business has no North Star setting or the one it has is empty (i.e. devoid of meaning), then look to craft or influence the creation of an authentic North Star. Better to have a realistic one that is well shared and understood throughout the organization than to have a delusional one that makes everyone roll their eyes.

No leader is an island

The 16th century poet John Donne intoned in his celebrated poem, “No man is an island, entire of itself.” He later explained, “I am involved in mankind.” In this poem, Donne reflects on two important traits that are entirely relevant for leaders today. First, a great leader surrounds herself with the best people, complementing her own abilities. Moreover, it’s vital to have a good network around you, outside of your own company. You are as strong as the network you have and the connections you make. Secondly, our leadership style needs to be imbued with skills that bring out the best in everyone. Serving a purpose and being of service to others will make you a better person and a better leader. Be involved in mankind.

Three things you can do:

  1. Be curious. Change around your regular sources of information and meet new people. I’m a big fan of Lunchclub which allows you to meet others who share certain interests. I use Flipboard and Feedly to ensure I have a diversity of sources to keep me up-to-date on select topics.
  2. Be humble. A genuine sign of strength is to show vulnerability and to be able to admit your weaknesses. Seek out others for help. You’ll be surprised how easily they’ll be willing to be of assistance. (And don’t forget to say thank you every day!)
  3. Flex your empathic muscle and practice active listening. Participate in an Empathy Circle, a structured dialogue that can be useful to come up with new solutions, but more importantly help strengthen bonds and develop your listening skills.

About the author

Minter DialMinter Dial is the author of You Lead (Kogan Page), Futureproof (Pearson) and Heartificial Empathy.  He is a professional speaker, filmmaker (The Last Ring Home) & “elevator.” You can find him on his website and on Twitter and Instagram. He will also be a featured speaker at this year’s Virtual LeaderCon.