Being a leader is no easy task, and this role can often come with heightened scrutiny and daunting expectations. In recent years, leadership turnover is up while leadership tenure is down – this means individuals in leadership roles are in their jobs for less time and organizations go through more leaders.
Leadership turnover and tenure haven’t changed because the requirements of leadership have changed – in fact, they remain the same. But in a culture where the individual has become more dominant and rewards to leaders have become outsized relative to the average employee at those same companies, performance expectations are higher and tolerance of mistakes is lower.
Learning the principles is easy. Executing them is a lifelong endeavor. These four lessons help you navigate leadership – think of them as the 4 key principles to guide your decision-making – your Cliffnotes to be the best leader you can be.
Empathy is the Key
Acting as an empathetic leader by listening to and understanding the sentiments of those who work for you is essential to being a successful leader. The pandemic was a challenging period for many people across the globe, and modes of communication, as well as leadership styles, had to evolve quickly in response to remote work. What’s essential in bringing a company, business, or group of people together during periods of adversity, is staying hopeful and optimistic as a leader, while also being thoughtful, empathetic, and grateful, particularly towards those sacrificing the most, is an important quality for every leader, whether in the professional, personal, or local communities you’re a part of.
Your Authenticity is Your Power
The reason diverse leaders are inspiring is that we still have relatively few of them. As diverse leadership continues to become more common in the workplace, it’s important to remember that they’re each carving their own paths of leadership and success. Their personal identity and experiences are integral to them as individuals and their leadership style, as well as their evolution. Adopting and honing a leadership style that leans into our unique characteristics is both authentic and consistent with our values and reality.
Adaptability is the Name of the Game
Covid-19 brought unforeseeable changes to the workplace and is one example of many different types of adversity leaders have to face throughout their careers. Adaptability is a core quality of the best leaders while staying true to themselves and the other aspects of their leadership style. Human beings don’t like change – particularly when it is thrust upon them – change creates new needs and expectations among people and requires that our style as leaders adapt so that members of our teams and communities feel seen, heard and cared for through change.
If Something Breaks, Fix It
The yin and the yang of being a leader is the glory and the responsibility. Our teams and supporters laud and cheer us on when we lead effectively. Equally, they feel the buck stops with us when something breaks. It’s our responsibility as leaders to fix it. When things go wrong, part of leadership is taking responsibility for it – even if you weren’t directly responsible for it. Mistakes happen and if no mistakes ever happen, you and your team aren’t taking enough risk – but people and teams focus on and remember outcomes.
The responsibility to acknowledge mistakes and fix them falls squarely on the shoulders of leaders. In addition, when team members watch leaders accepting responsibility for things that go wrong, they perceive the culture positively – as one that values integrity and encourages innovation and diversity of thought – a positive environment in which individuals and teams can thrive.
Empathy, authenticity, adaptability, and responsibility are the most vital qualities in any leader – and these qualities are becoming increasingly important with the reality of high rates of leadership turnover. As diversity in the workplace increases, the importance of leaders acting with a common set of values and standards is even more important.
When we step into a leadership role, we’re also stepping under a microscope with the world looking through the scope at us. Learning is key for any effective leader – and these four lessons can be learned and practiced as they’re key to being an effective leader in every environment.
This article was co-written by Samantha Jayanti and Sarah Brown.
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