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5 Ways To Future-Proof Your Leadership Style

Written by: Anna Nordengren, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

To begin with, let’s declare that the future is already here. We've all seen the dramatic pictures of flooded cities, plastic-filled oceans, political unrest, and increasingly intelligent AI taking over the jobs. At the same time, it seems people are little engaged in their jobs. Statistics from Gallup show that only 14% of European employees are engaged in their jobs!

So, this article isn’t about WHY you have to future-proof your leadership style, but rather HOW you can develop a sustainable leadership style in order to navigate successfully in a complex world that is already here.


The sustainable leader is dynamic and humble


The world has become more complex and no leader alone has all the answers. A sustainable leadership style is dynamic and humble, it builds trust and empowers people. Now a new leadership style is needed that engages and involves everyone in your business.


“A company is nothing more than a collection of people” Simon Sinek

When you choose to see a business as a collection of people gathered to co-create value, you realize that an important role for you as a leader is to inspire and facilitate co-creation with others.


But in many companies, there is still this old idea where people are seen as replaceable machines, and employees get paid for “hours of physical labor”. However, today, employee engagement, creativity, and collaboration are needed to keep up with change and competition. Companies no longer pay for hours of pre-defined work, but for unique skills, problem-solving, and engagement. So how do you unleash the potential in your employees?


What makes people follow a leader?


Gallup found that there are 4 factors, needs that must be met, which make employees follow a leader:

  • Trust

  • Compassion

  • Stability

  • Hope

When you think of your business as a collection of people working together, your leadership style will have to meet those human needs. And it starts with you showing up as an authentic human being. How can you leverage your own strengths in order to future-proof your leadership style?


1. Lead with purpose


Successful organizations have a strong and clear why, a higher purpose. In his book “Start with Why”, Simon Sinek describes how great leaders inspire everyone to take action:


Neither employees, customers nor other stakeholders make rational decisions. Humans are to a large extent controlled by our unconscious minds, where our decisions are made. However, the subconscious mind speaks the language of feelings, which means you make your decisions based on the way something or somebody makes you feel. Through a clear why, you connect with other people’s feelings and activate their subconscious decision-making process.


How to define the higher purpose of your company?


Do you already know what the purpose of your business is? Probably you already know deep down, but it’s worthwhile to spend some time to get really clear and put words to it in order to be able to communicate it efficiently.


Set time aside and reflect on the questions:

  • What do we do?

  • What are we really good at?

  • Why do we do it ‒ in what way does our product/service make people's lives and even the world a little better? How does it make people feel?


Having a clearly defined purpose allows you to connect to people’s intrinsic motivation:


2. Promote intrinsic motivation


In the past, management relied on extrinsic motivation, “the carrot and the stick”. In his book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, Daniel H. Pink explains how this approach actually can kill motivation.


Instead, he promotes what he calls Motivation 3.0 ‒ intrinsic motivation. In the book, he tells the story of Harry Harlow, the researcher who discovered intrinsic motivation by accident already in 1949. In a study with monkeys, he discovered that the monkeys willingly and enthusiastically solved logical problems without either threats or rewards. But at that time, the discovery was so controversial that it was hidden and forgotten!


But today most researchers agree that the strongest motivation comes from within and your task as a leader is to create the right conditions for it to thrive:

  1. Firstly, people want to have a sense of Meaning, that what they do actually makes a difference. So again, defining and communicating the purpose of your business is vital.

  2. The second critical factor for intrinsic motivation is Mastery, i.e., being challenged to excel at what you are really good at. Do you let your employees shine in the area they are truly masterful at?

  3. And thirdly ‒ humans have a need for Autonomy, i.e., to govern themselves. This is why micro-management kills motivation. Give people autonomy over how they do their job.


But when you allow people to decide how to do their job, how do you make sure the business is moving in the right direction, toward the goal?


3. Apply clever management by objectives


This one should be straightforward, but many organizations work with too many goals, with goals that are not clearly defined or sufficiently communicated and employees are not involved in the goal-setting process.


“If you have more than 3 priorities you have none.” Jim Collins

There is a lot to say about goal-setting, but in order to create engagement and make sure you steer in the desired direction, these are a few points to consider:

  • Set few, but wildly important goals

  • Set goals based on where you want to be in the future, not based on past experiences

  • Focus on what you can control ‒ lead measures

  • Involve each level of the organization in the goal-setting process

  • Follow up


When the goal is clearly communicated it can be shared and people will know what to do without demotivating micro-management.


4. Be authentic


A future-proof leadership style is authentic leadership based on self-knowledge and self-leadership. When you become more self-aware you will be able to take action mindfully and proactively. As you lead yourself, you lead others.


Self-leadership is an ongoing journey of self-inquiry and personal growth. In order to get to know your true potential, your strengths, needs, and desires, start asking yourself those questions:

  • What do I really want?

  • What am I really good at?

  • What do I enjoy doing?

  • How can I make an impact?


Future-proof your leadership style by becoming the leader you were meant to be.


Compassion


According to Bill George who wrote the book “Discover Your True North” and coined the term Authentic Leadership, compassion is an important aspect of authentic leadership. Compassion builds resilience and trust, and it can be cultivated.


5. Be courageous!


As a leader people will turn to you for guidance and hope, especially in challenging times of uncertainty. So have the courage to go ahead and lead the way, even when it storms. Stand up for what you really believe in. This gives predictability and builds trust.


“Courage is the pathway to change” ‒ Dr. David Hawkins

Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to control fear and to be willing to deal with something that is dangerous, difficult, or unpleasant. Be willing to face your own fears and expand your comfort zone.


How you see the future determines who you choose to be today:

  1. Lead with purpose

  2. Promote intrinsic motivation

  3. Apply clever management by objectives

  4. Be authentic

  5. Be courageous


Follow me on LinkedIn, Facebook, and visit my website for more on leadership and personal development.


 

Anna Nordengren, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Anna Nordengren is a dedicated business professional with 25 years of experience in leadership, marketing and business consulting. She is also an ICF Coach, an NLP Practitioner, and a Certified Yoga Teacher. After a personal crisis, where she dived deep into her own personal development, she made it her mission is to bring all her experience and insights to inspire and help people make changes they are longing for to reach their goals, both in life and in business. “Life is short, don't waste a day being in a situation where you are not happy without trying to change it”. Her academic background is an MSc in Business and Economics with an international degree from Lund University in Sweden, and an Executive MBA from the same University.

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