Differentiating Talented Leaders

Given the learning from the recent events, what are the talented leaders doing that is differentiating them from the rest…

Embracing the permission to do things differently – Recent events have created a level playing field, great leadership hasn’t been about position in reality it never was) it’s been about the ability to connect, communicate, motivate, engage, trust – sound familiar traits?

Those that were running ‘the best leader’ race pre-covid are not necessarily the front runners anymore, the pandemic has exposed the cracks for many and at the same time has spotlighted a lot of hidden talent. When the rule book got thrown out the window mid-March it provided an opportunity to embrace the chance to be different, something many business craved and yet had never quite been able to give their leaders the permission to be.

New rules are being created, the talented leaders will seize the chance to make sure those rules are fit for purpose for now…one thing is for certain they won’t be fit for purpose for ever and it will be up to businesses to continue to allow leaders to move and adapt, and up to leaders to challenge the status quo more than ever.

Re-creating shared purpose – In the early weeks of lockdown when businesses had been forced to shut their physical doors and teams found themselves dispersed across kitchen tables, living rooms and just about anywhere they could set up their home office, some leaders woke up to the change in environment and rather than attempt to get everyone to work as if they were still in an office they’re re-created their purpose, they reset expectations, they looked for ways to enable everyone to be at their best in their new circumstances. Ultimately, they were visible, willing to do things differently and collaborated with their teams to move forward together.

As the next stage of working develops leaders will need to repeatedly check in and where needed reset; leadership and teamwork is not changing however the context is going to continually change. The glue provided by a shared common purpose where each team member fully understands and embraces their part in delivering will be essential in navigating the ever-changing working environment, encouraging autonomy and maintaining motivation.

Being visible and fully connected – A month or so into lockdown I was speaking to a friend, she talked openly about how much communication with her line manager who also happened to be the CEO had changed. She said it suddenly felt functional and minimalistic, that she felt a distance between them that she had never experienced before. I was to hear a similar story repeated over the coming weeks as well as hearing the exact opposite experience from other people who felt more connected than ever.

How visible line managers have been during this time has created extremes in connectivity and would appear to have left little middle ground. Simple things like using cameras on Teams and Zoom calls, ensuring catch up time is not all task focused that the conversations that would have naturally emerged by being in an office together were given airtime has definitely made a difference.

However, the single biggest factor has been nurturing a sense of workplace community, this takes more time and intention on the part of a leader but without it individuals disconnect and teams become scattered. The likelihood of teams working remotely from each other is no longer a temporary situation, for those leaders still hovering in the shadows it’s time to step out, to connect with your teams in more than just a functional way.

Demonstrating trust – There is no doubt that the ‘presentism equals performance’ paradigm has been blown to smithereens! Forgive me for cheering loudly! Finally, there is proof that motivated individuals, supported and managed well can perform better than ever before regardless of their location, they just need their managers to trust them!

In some recent interactive virtual sessions, we ran around Leading Virtually one of the participants decided to ‘test trust out’, she used the simple phrase ‘I trust you’ with individuals in her team that she really did trust to deliver she had just never told them before. She reported seeing noticeable changes in her team members behaviour, everything from an increase in motivation to an increase in creative thinking, ownership and problem solving. She shared that she realised that in order to try and get the best performance from the team she had held the reins too tightly now working remotely had made that impossible to continue, by setting the team up well and telling them that she trusted them they were finally able to step into the space she had created and delivered way beyond anything she would have expected.

We all know that trust is the foundation in any relationship and a key differentiator in an organisation’s performance so now is the time to get rid of your trust issues and if you can’t ask yourself why? What have you done or not done to be enable trust to exist?

No rocket science here but to be honest when it comes to good leadership there rarely is, good leadership is about relationship, trust, reliability and the ability to bring out the best in others and remember any team’s productivity depends on one role – their manager.

Sarah Wall
Founder, Director of OD, LeadEQ