I recently co-authored the article “The Future of Leadership Development” with Sarah Cave, Primeast’s head of leadership development. Since then I have been asked many times to offer my own top tips for evolving leadership maturity.
This is a timely article as “mindset” is something that many commentators, including notably Otto Scharmer and Frederic Laloux, see as vital to effective leadership in the 21st century. I confess that a few (but not all) of my top tips are significantly influenced by their work.
- Recognise “purpose” as having a life of its own. Far too many leaders think that the purpose of their organisation belongs to them or is the property of the executive team. Laloux is especially clear about “purpose” being a living entity and something that even the CEO must serve. Understanding and applying this thinking is a significant aspect of transformation.
- Understand purpose to be fractal. Fractal mathematics is the concept of self-similarity. Patterns we see at one level of scale will apply as we zoom in or out of a situation. For a leader to realise that the purpose of their organisation is a subset of a greater, global purpose is really powerful. It encourages them to collaborate with others beyond their organisation. Similarly, each unit within the organisation will have its own purpose. Encourage teams to clarify why they do what they do and to understand the connection with the corporate and wider purpose.
- Tell stories in different languages. A good leader will have a powerful vision for their organisation which is a manifestation of the purpose at a particular time horizon. However, to inspire all stakeholders, this vision will need to be described in different ways according to the audience. In doing so, a mature leader will draw others into the story and even give them opportunity to co-create the future.
- Accept complexity as a fact of leadership life. Leadership is, by its nature, about people. People bring complexity to a situation. Different stakeholders bring different perspectives and a good leader will listen for new information. They will be open to learning and new possibilities.
- Develop empathy. What people say is only a small fraction of the information they can bring to a situation. A good leader will notice and enquire about how people are feeling. They will detect when people are feeling uncomfortable or excited and act appropriately.
- Develop emotional intelligence. Very much linked to the last point, a good leader will have self-awareness and self-control. They will probably realise that emotional intelligence is something that can be measured and developed and have a personal strategy for doing so.
- Tune in to the emerging future. A good leader will take time to understand what is happening in their area of business. They will attend conferences on topics of relevance and collaborate with people within and beyond their organisation. They will understand associated trends and potential causes of disruption. They are able to work with a number of scenarios for the future and will seek to influence outcomes that are within their capacity to do so.
- Develop resilience. Leaders in many organisations are under significant pressure and there will be times when things don’t go according to plan. They will be aware that their demeanour affects those around them and consciously manage their apparent state. They develop mental toughness and “bounce-back-ability”.
- Empower others. Leaders need strategic time, renewal time and quality time with key stakeholders. So empowering others to get on with their work, solve their own problems and work as part of the wider team is essential. Leaders who expect to be at the centre of too much decision-making simply drown in their own busyness.
- Know when to move on. This seems like a good tip to end on. Good leaders know that the time will come when they have done what they needed to do for the people they serve. Long before this time arises, they will be on the lookout for succession. A good leader will always know who will fill their shoes if something unexpected happens to them and they will also be developing someone (probably a different person) to do their job even better than they do.
These are just my top tips for mature leadership. If you would like to find out more about how Primeast Leader Development could support your organisation, email us to arrange a call on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our Leadership pages here.
- Clive Wilson is an experienced facilitator and speaker and author of “Designing the Purposeful Organization” published by Kogan Page.