In the work I do with leaders, teams and organizations, a constant challenge – regardless of the industry or issue – is around keeping pace with change on an individual and collective level. Bob Anderson, author of Mastering Leadership, speaks to this point when he discusses the correlation between business results and leadership effectiveness. Bob states, “The pace of development for leaders must exceed or match the pace of change in business conditions.” Do you agree? Think back through your career and note how your development was keeping pace. What do you notice? Were you actively changing to match business conditions?
We all need to regularly assess how our business environment is shifting, and what that requires in terms of our skills, our mindset, organizational capabilities, and our leadership. Then we must do the critical work of assessing where to hone our capabilities, so they may evolve to match changing conditions. Sometimes all that’s needed is a small shift.
An executive team I worked with recently found that their industry was becoming more competitive and crowded, and the team’s decision making was often slow and lacking clear accountabilities. This insight led the team to focus on becoming more decisive, action oriented and coordinated in their decision making. And, with concerted effort over several months the team increased their awareness and capability around decision making. This incremental shift strengthened the organization’s clarity, and enabled more efficient and coordinated action.
At other times, the gap we need to close is much more significant and perhaps daunting. If so, this is a likely growth edge. For some leaders, their experiences to date have aligned with their strengths, which was enough to garner success. Now they are finding that their current role requires a different way of thinking and leading. What’s tricky about this situation is that we all like to lead from our comfort zones, so we need to be aware when the context calls for working the less developed sides of our leadership skills. This can be both rewarding and difficult. Why? Because it’s human nature – and can become a habit – to play from our strengths and shy away from our weaknesses. Accordingly, some leaders need to learn to shift from simply executing to inspiring with vision. While others must move from being fiercely independent to being connected and interdependent, or from being pleasers to being declarative.
One of my clients finds herself and her exec team in a new context…..where the business is behind the industry. This requires them to define new clarity about their future direction, reach for innovative approaches, and act with a strong sense of urgency. It also means leading with a level of insistence about the future. This leader’s natural style is to be inclusive, collaborative and patient. The growth edge is to partner these skills with a less familiar leadership style that is declarative about future direction, with insistence about when and how.
Growth edges require diligence and attention, rather than simply upping a strength that already exists. What’s a leader to do? Here are a few simple steps to get started in assessing the prevailing business environment, and whether you need to adjust to keep pace.
- What’s changing in the business environment and what’s our mandate? Clarity and specificity are important here!
- What kind of leadership will be required to achieve our goals? Can you describe it?
- How is this different/similar to how I have been leading? Where is my growth edge? Work with a coach to gain insight about your natural strengths and the changes you want to make in style, approach and skills. This will help you determine what’s already in your wheelhouse (just needing a tweak here and there), and identify ways you can grow to be successful.
- NAME IT. There’s power in calling out the shift you need to make, both for yourself and for those you lead (See my January 13 blog post entitled “Goals, Goals, Goals!”).
- FRAME IT. Ask yourself: where and how will I lead like this? Set an intention to bring this action to life in many settings (work, home, board room).
- GAME IT. This means to make your intention part of your game by practicing the new behavior frequently.
- REVIEW, ADJUST, and KEEP GOING. That is, notice how you’re doing while exercising this new capability, and then adjust and keep going. It can be more comfortable for everyone if you let your team know you’re working on this growth edge and how it serves the business.
For more on these topics, see the following articles, both of which informed this blog post:
“6 Brain-Based Leadership Game-Changers for 2018,” by Christine Comaford, Forbes, January 6, 2018.
“Your Growth Edges (And How to Find Them),” by Noa Kageyama, PhD, BulletProof Musician, accessed March 16, 2018.
For more on your comfort zone and why you need to leave it, please see:
The Boundaries of Experience, DailyOM, March 29, 2010, accessed March 19, 2018.