L for Leadership, Learning and Listen

Neil ButlerUntypical Thoughts

Has there ever been a time in business when leadership has been more important? In many organisations, there are all sorts of temporary activities taking place, restructures being announced and new operating models being designed. Many people are finding the going tough – they’ve not seen anything like this before and find themselves feeling disoriented and uncertain.

This is a good time to consider the difference between management and leadership. Typically and traditionally, management came from above and was quite prescriptive for those affected. Leadership is about various people working with their colleagues to set and navigate the business in a new direction.

The clear difference here is that leadership is not the domain of the traditional management team. It is everyone’s responsibility and requires two distinct changes in the way that many businesses operate – firstly, people throughout an organisation acknowledging their obligation to lead during uncertain times and secondly, the traditional management structure acknowledging that their way is not necessarily the right way anymore. They need to understand that leadership comes from right through an organisation, regardless of job title.

As we progress through what should be seen as a major paradigm shift, people will be learning new skills and knowledge as they go. They will make mistakes. They will stuff things up.

Don’t step in and take over – step forward and support them. If you can, help them to learn. Tell them it’s OK to not know everything.

Creating a “new normal” with existing skills and knowledge will almost certainly guarantee that you merely adapt to a new operating model rather than actively transforming to a business that can flourish in the new world. The first option is safe. The second requires learning and courage.

In times of crisis and pressure, often people start to worry about themselves and their future rather than listening to what is happening with those around them.

There are people in your organisation who may not have been in senior or previously influential roles but who have some amazing insights into the way forward. People who have just joined the organisation and have not had the existing operating model ingrained into their thinking. People who are less experienced in the sector but bring great ideas from previous organisations. People who think creatively and have had that creativity suppressed in the past.

I have one word of advice on this … listen. You just never know what you’ll hear.

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