The issue of leadership is often only narrowly understood. Many see leadership as a position, others as a set of skills, a capacity to influence, but all of these perceptions miss the nuances of being a leader. And the complications.
Leadership is a dynamic relationship. It is fluid, impacted by organisational culture (see more in our previous blog post https://tpcleadership.com/are-you-still-worrying-about-leadership-styles/), by the needs of others and by world events. So much affects the leadership in our organisation that it can feel impossible to untangle. But we need to untangle it. And when we do, we are able to deeply connect individual talents and values with organisational purpose and strategy, developing a system that enables all leaders to thrive, while adding real value to clients and key stakeholders.
Adapting to world events
The impact of the financial crisis of 2008/2009 can still be felt today. Many organisations we work with say the issues never ended. They’re still driven to double and triple check everything they do. To proceed with caution in all things so that from the top down, the organisation can feel assured about the success of every endeavour, no matter how small or large.
Financial pressure created a preference for safety over innovation. Our organisational structures shifted towards survival. And quite apart from the skills leaders may or may not have been taught, their capacity to lead became constrained.
If the tolerance and celebration of risk-taking took a hit from the financial crisis, it will be important to evaluate what impact that the coronavirus has both now and in the future. Whether we are affected by decreased demand, quarantine or halted production, we will unconsciously adapt to the new rules of play. It will be essential for us to keep asking questions, to consider the impact of the changes we make and to hold onto the core values and purpose that makes our organisations what they are.
Considering every need and impact
Traditional leadership focused on the need to increase sales and efficiency. But this focus is too narrow for our changing world. Now the wider world affects leadership and leadership affects the wider world.
Too often we have focused on the means of creating profit, without considering its impact. Leaders have been driven by shareholders’ ends, without questioning those ends. And this has left its mark on the environment, the market and society.
If leadership is a dynamic system, it is more than a function. It is not about making things happen but asking what should happen in the first place – and why. We cannot consider ethics as an afterthought. Ethics aren’t something to temper the impact of profit-making. They can be the entire reason we are doing business in the first place.
We need to take our values and purpose seriously, to focus on what matters most. There are environmental and social ends we care about that we have compromised – consciously or unconsciously – because we have perceived leadership too narrowly. We have focused on the immediate and missed out on our reason for being.
This is where leadership consultancy is essential. It connects us back to the people we are serving, to the values that define our personal and organisational vision. No organisation aspires only to meet the bottom line. We know that we have a more important part to play. Leadership consultancy realigns us with the purpose we may have forgotten.
Crossing the unknown
The etymology of the word leader is rooted in the role of a guide. The kind of person who would help you cross an unknown land – perhaps a forest or mountain range – from one point to another. What kind of person would you want for a guide?
Today we are still crossing the unknown. There are world events and changes that threaten to be unnavigable. There are systems and cultures we work in that permeate our thinking so that it’s hard to separate our own priorities from the demands of the day. It can be hard to remember why we’re even travelling at all. On an organisational level, leaders can stay lost in the woods, perhaps forgetting that they ever meant to journey to another destination. It’s easily done. After all, this isn’t a reflection on our ability, but a reflection of the dynamic and ever-shifting system of leadership.
That’s why we do leadership consultancy. It’s about helping entire organisations to cross the desert safely. To remember what’s important. To hold fast to their vision despite the manys obstacles and get to their destination: a place that has a real and good impact on the world they are a part of. They’ll end up making a profit as well. But they do it without compromising.
We want to ask you the hard questions, to help you understand the importance of reflection. We won’t forget the needs of day-to-day business, but we’ll integrate them with an understanding of human behaviour and mindsets – connecting the day-to-day to the bigger picture, to your reason being, to the people you serve. We won’t just stop at self-discovery, or structures and process, we’ll help you follow through to support behavioural changes in your people.
Let’s walk together on this journey through the unknown. Check out our leadership consultancy services or contact your local TPC Leadership team to begin the conversation.
Navigating change is now more important than ever. This article is part of a six-part TPC Leadership original series on leadership consultancy – and its role in helping organisations engage with the bigger picture while staying adaptable to the present moment. Next in the series: The importance of setting the right goals and measuring the right results.
Co-written by Andrea Cardillo, Managing Partner TPCL Italy and Christian Scholtes, Managing Partner TPCL Romania.
Copyright@ TPC Leadership (2020)