My favorite work involves sharing ideas with emerging leaders on the realities and challenges of leading in an environment of volatility and ambiguity. In a recent setting with a diverse group of early-career and first-time managers, we worked together to create a manifesto for leading today. The list below reflects a blended view of our mutual perspectives on succeeding as a leader today. The energy and enthusiasm from this emerging generation of leaders for getting it right was palpable and comes through in our joint work-product.
Ten Essential Behaviors for Emerging Leaders
1. You Lead the Climb, Taking Risks and Securing the Path
No leading from the back. You take risks, grope and grasp for toe-holds with new strategies and organizational change, clear away the obstacles and secure the way forward. And then you get the heck out of the way and let them do their work.
2. Time-to-Trust: It All Starts with Trust
Without trust, there is no collaboration or creation, just grudging compliance. The faster you move to a state of trust with your group members, the faster good things happen.
3. Trust plus Accountability=Where the Magic Happens
Values are important for leaders and teams, but if you have to start with two, focus on trust and accountability. Trust gains support. Accountability sets the standard for everything else.
4. Focus on Detoxing the Immediate Environment
No matter how challenging the workplace environment is, it doesn’t excuse you from creating a bubble of competence and success. You don’t control the larger organization, so focus your environment-creating efforts on your immediate team. Create a pocket of goodness, free from fear and focused on the work of creating great outcomes.
5. Leading is Science and Art: Master the Physics of Integrative Thinking
Most dilemmas reduce to a set of unattractive decision-choices. Instead of defaulting to binary choices, integrative thinkers harness the tension between the options to identify alternative opportunities and approaches.
6. Avoid Myopia by Changing the Optics
There’s so much going on in our world today, that chances are the change(s) threatening our firm’s existence or offering opportunities for revitalization are happening far beyond our industry. Cultivate scanning and forecasting skills.
7. When Communicating, Flex and Don’t Force
It’s a diverse, multi-cultural world and it’s our job as leaders to adapt our communication and managerial approaches to team members and not the other way around. Meet and engage with them on their terms.
8. More Science: Creating Great Teams is a Chemistry Experiment
Fostering high performance demands rigorous attention to the ingredients, temperature, and temperament of the group. Start with a clear and compelling purpose; limit the group size to low single-digits, and provide active coaching and watch and support closely and you have a fighting chance at making magic.
9. Influence, Not Title is the True Measure of Your Power
Real power is measured by the ability to affect choices and changes. Titles are a poor proxy for real power. Instead, your ability to choose a path, bring the right resources to bear, and to drive results with others all describe your level of influence.
10. Sometimes you Have to Paint the Wall
Enabling the emergence of creativity across your group is opinion, job one. Without creativity and action, there is no change or growth. (An example that resonated: after Chobani Yogurt founder, Hamdi Ulukaya, purchased a defunct factory from Kraft, he wasn’t certain what to have his small group of employees do first. So, he bought some paint and had them paint a wall. Instead of doing nothing, they did something. After that, they figured out how to redefine a market.) Instead of doing nothing, pick up a brush. You never know what you’ll create.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
Leaders at all levels of experience are well-served by this powerful, focused, brief manifesto on what it takes to succeed and lead today. The unfettered idealism coupled with the practical, actionable ideas combine to create much of the recipe for reinventing leadership.