The ‘And Beyond’ Leader
As the business world faces multiple challenges and disruption, the behaviours of leaders are ever more critical to business success. For some time there has been an ongoing shift in how people want to be led, and the events of 2020 accelerated this. The leaders of the future need to facilitate positive and sustainable change to meet the challenges of the new world of work by creating an environment focusing on collective leadership and business agility in an age of disruption. We have labelled these leaders the ‘And Beyond’ leaders.
The ‘And Beyond’ leader looks beyond the norm to identify the right strategy, decision or outcome. They are willing to look past the existing ways of doing things and to experiment and adapt. They are willing to make the difficult decisions, even if it goes against the conventional wisdom.
Real life leadership
An example of an ‘And Beyond’ leader is Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand, who has impressed where most politicians have signally failed to make the grade. Whether terrorist attack, natural disaster or global pandemic she has, from the outset, acted swiftly and effectively, communicating her strategies. As a result of how she handled the pandemic, New Zealanders celebrated the 2020 festive season as usual.
One of her predecessors, former PM Helen Clark, attributes Ardern’s success to the fact that people feel she “doesn’t preach at them; she’s standing with them.” An opinion borne out by the fact that Ardern took a 20 per cent wage cut, in solidarity with those who lost jobs or were forced to accept a pay cut as a result of lockdown. Ardern has shown a different kind of leadership, one that demonstrates empathy and compassion, and that engenders a high level of trust and confidence in her.
Thinking the unthinkable
We constantly hear people talking about change being the new constant, and yet many organisations were caught out by the speed of the impact of COVID-19. Our research found that for many leaders this was because they had not fully engaged in “What if?” thinking. In a world that demands short term actions and results, there has been little or no appetite to spend quality time on thinking about things deemed unlikely to happen. This is a mistake.
The ‘And Beyond’ leader makes the time to think the unthinkable and to prepare for different eventualities. Successful leaders of the future will actively engage themselves and others in discussions of potential disruptors; how to prepare, respond and survive them.
We need leaders to think critically, systemically and strategically, focusing on the broader and future needs of the organisation to provide a platform for personal and business excellence. Future proof leaders characterise organisational resources and needs in terms of skills, knowledge and behaviours, and choose the best person for a job rather than the most senior person. They know that the answers don’t always lie in the leaders.
In our view, the leaders at the Dorchester Collection have demonstrated the thinking beyond approach in their response to the global pandemic. In his interview with The People Space in December, Eugenio Pirri, chief people and culture officer of Dorchester Collection talked of how they re-imagined how employees work across the organisation, so that the business would be ready to maintain market share and profitability, continuing to protect legacy, culture, people and the bottom line. They now have a highly adaptable and flexible workforce.
Navigating a volatile and competitive environment is challenging and leaders with the right expertise, behaviours and mindset will forge ahead and adapt despite difficulties and challenges. ‘And Beyond’ Leaders think and act proactively to demonstrate agility and a flexible leadership style that fosters great communication and the ability to innovate in meeting market and employee needs.
Encouraging innovation and being open to new and different ways of doing things are key here; that said, unless leadership is prepared to pursue innovative strategies and take some risk, they won’t make real progress.
Knowing when to stick to an existing strategy and when to create a new one is of critical importance. It’s crucial to have a culture of ongoing review, looking at what is working, what could be improved and to consider all the possibilities for sustainable organisational success. This is about being outward-focused and prepared to think differently, to collaborate as well as compete, and being able to delegate responsibility while building trust and recognition.
The ‘And Beyond’ leader demonstrates awareness of social, environmental and governance issues in areas including diversity and inclusion, pollution, climate change, generational differences and ever-changing workforce dynamics. These issues are keenly felt by employees today and there is a general consensus that leaders need to take responsibility for such issues and pay more attention to them.
The ‘And Beyond’ leader does this. They are usually one of the first people to speak out on an issue and stimulate action. Their voice can be regularly and consistently heard way ahead of the issue being adopted by their peers. Not only are they willing to have the courage of their convictions, they also recognise how doing so will have a beneficial impact on the business. These are leaders who engage with what matters most to their people, focused on creating social connections with their teams and taking a holistic approach. A leader’s ability to take a pro-active and constructive role in the society in which the business operates will be at a distinct advantage in the coming years.
The expectations of leaders are shifting and the ‘And Beyond’ leader is rising to the challenge, creating the conditions and culture that enable employees to share collective responsibility to adapt, evolve and develop to stay relevant.