“I’m going to be a better leader”
It’s that time of year again, where the calendar marks an end, and the approach of a new beginning – a time of much self-evaluation, and from those thoughts, the annual New Year’s Resolutions.
For leaders, these proclamations can certainly be helpful as a jump start, but these days, simply declaring we want to be “better” just isn’t enough.
There’s a new dynamic at work that’s creating the new leaders of the 21st Century, and the better we can understand it, and adapt our “resolutions” to it in very specific ways, the greater our chances to find and stay on that road to leadership greatness.
Recently I read a great piece in the New York Times written by David Segal that addressed this evolving leadership paradigm entitled “In Pursuit of the Perfect Brainstorm”.
In it, Dev Patnaik of Jump Associates cites the rapid advance of technology as the catalyst, and compares the current leadership challenges to what painters faced in the late 19th Century, when photography pushed them to change:
“Then painters said: ‘Well, wait, you can tell what is but you can’t tell me my impression of what is. Here’s how it looks to me, like Seurat. Or the Cubists who said, ‘You can’t capture what is going on from multiple angles.’ ” Technology forced painters to re-evaluate, which transformed their work. Something similar has happened in corporate America. As Patnaik puts it, “We’re in the abstract-expressionist era of management.”
Technology has evened the playing field in the corporate world with an amazing swiftness, and leaders who recognize the “new” differentiators, and like the painters, develop new techniques to take advantage of them, will be the ones who thrive and get to the top of the heap.
And yes, they are more “abstract”. They are about people.
And as we all know, people have a much higher level of complexity than any process, policy, income statement or balance sheet they can produce.
So our resolutions for the coming year need to be pointed towards people – recognizing that THEY are the ones that will make or break you.
And because of the complexity, there must be more to these resolutions than “I will be better”, or “I will learn to adapt”.
Here are 10 that I believe form an excellent foundation for excelling as a 21st Century leader:
- I will enable my teammates by giving them the freedom to make decisions on their own, and not disable them by micro-managing.
- I will inspire, every single day, by leading with real purpose, and with my heart as well as my head.
- My actions will match my words as to how our company values are represented, for I know that my integrity is vitally important.
- I will eliminate fear from the workplace by encouraging open dialogues and the flow of bad news as well as the good.
- I will enthusiastically, and not scornfully, seize all opportunities to learn and improve from our mistakes.
- I will encourage creativity by not dominating discussions or “pre-judging” any ideas – no suggestions are dumb suggestions.
- I will treat my leadership as service to my teammates, not the other way around.
- I will listen, and listen more, and then, listen a little more.
- I will show compassion, tolerance, empathy, and if I really want to embrace this new paradigm, I will not fear putting love into my leadership as well.
- And most of all, the joy I have in leading, and being a leader, and the sense of enjoyment and fun that I bring to the workplace, will spread like a virus to all who cross my path.
For this new year, let’s embrace our inner Picasso, and indeed be resolute in embracing (and thriving in) the new world of the 21st Century leader.
Happy New Year, and Lead Well!