What is the role of a leader? The role of a leader, is to inspire people, and help people go beyond their call of duty and capacity to achieve the shared vision.
Developing leaders faster than competition is the only way to succeed in the new age economy. Ultimately, a business is always of the people, by the people and for the people. Therefore developing leaders should be the mission critical goal for any organisation to succeed in today’s hyper competitive market. Leaders don’t build organisation, leaders develop people, and people build organisations.
Millions of research findings and leadership experts agree that, Leadership is not genetic. Leadership is a skill and therefore can be learned through right training and practice. Napoleon Hill once said, “Without a sense of fairness and justice, no leader can command and retain the respect of his followers“.
In this post, I will highlight top 10 leadership skills (in no specific order) critical for leading in new age economy:
- Compassion: Compassion is empathy with action. The popular perception of a leader is someone, who is tough, hard-nosed, conditioned to put business before people and lead with their heads, not with their hearts. These leadership traits are dangerous for leading in new age economy. Because, people can’t focus and do good work if they’re distracted by strong negative emotions. It is at the ‘feelings’ level where many performance and productivity problems lie. If you want people to take committed action and put in a superior performance, you have to connect with their feelings first. The reality is most successful leaders, amongst their other traits, have the conviction, confidence and courage to connect with their most important asset – people. Compassion makes practical business sense. Great leaders care about connecting with the people they lead and inspire people with purpose, hope, optimism and energy because they resonate, empathise and connect. Thousands of researches have also confirmed that compassion acts as an insulator to combat the harmful impacts of toxic emotions on body and mind and have positive effect on neurological functioning, psychological well-being, physical health and personal relationships. Consciously engaging emotions such as hope and compassion, counters the physiological and psychological harm done by stress. Living a compassionate life can be learned. Compassion comes from attentive, unbiased listening and understanding other person’s views and feelings. Giving is another way of acquiring compassion. Give your time and resources for those who are not as privileged as you are. Meditation can greatly help develop qualities of empathy and compassion.In the end, people may not remember what you did or what you said, but they will definitely remember, how you made them feel.
- Confidence with Humility: With knowledge, comes humility. One of the most amazing human personalities is the co-existence of confidence and humility. Often people, who are confident are not humble and people with humility are not confident. Confidence blended with humility is most appreciated by all. To develop humility, you need to see life in a much bigger context, you will realise that, in the large scheme of creation, our life span is absolutely minuscule. Connecting to our mortality is a surest way to achieve humility. It is also important to realize that most of our life’s success is not solely due to our own talent or effort. Most often, the success is due to hardworking and talented team mates, experienced mentors, good upbringings, good education, good wishes of our well wishers, and sometimes it is pure luck. Humility comes from the deep awareness of various external factors that create favourable conditions for our success. With humility, we will be able to see the goodness in everything and every person, we will be down-to-earth in our approach towards people, situations, and circumstances and therefore be able to inspire people around us. The opposite of humility is ego. Unless we live with complete awareness, it is very easy to slip into the zone of ego. New Age leaders demonstrate compelling modesty and are never boastful.
- Feedback and Coaching: Feedback and coaching skills are critical pre-requisite for leading and building a highly engaged and motivated team. New age leaders provide their feedback based on facts and not based on perceptions and biases. Most often, our perception about an individual is shaped by our conditioning and our thinking. Such biased perceptions often do not objectively assess the situation of an individual and therefore biased feedbacks seem unfair from the recipient’s perspective. New age leaders are great coach. Coaching is most effective, when it is based on the life experience and there is a high degree of trust between the coach and the coachee. The graph below shows the relationship between managers’ coaching skills and the impact that has on their employees’ level of commitment to the organization. (based on nearly a quarter of a million employees’ ratings of their managers).
- Integrity: A famous Japanese proverb states “When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends“. Integrity is 100% alignment of your belief and behaviour. Integrity is a binary state and not situational — either it exists or it does not. People with lack of integrity can not be trusted and therefore are too dangerous for any organisation or team. Leaders who live with integrity, inspire their followers through their own high standards and ideals. Such leaders, takes personal responsibility for any failure, and make zero excuses by blaming their team or competition or any external circumstances. Individuals with high integrity do not corruptible when given power. If someone abandons their ideals once they are given real power, they reveal that those ideals were more a disguise than rooted in their identity. Leaders with integrity, recognize that every person plays a role in their company, from the CEO to the janitor, therefore respect the roles played by each team members.
- Inclusiveness: Leading new age companies, inclusiveness is synonymous with excellent management and leadership. Inclusive leader’s behaviours and actions invites and appreciates contributions from others.The inclusive leader encourages all members of the group to speak up, especially those, who would not usually have their voices heard. Such leaders do not hide information or not partial in their approach. Inclusive leadership creates a culture of psychological safety and trust. Research shows that inclusive leaders get the best out of their people, boost team moral, productivity, loyalty and motivation. Inclusive leadership style could be as simple as seeking candid feedbacks on the leadership style from team members, or simply going out for a coffee with team members to find out more about their dreams and aspirations or seeking feedback on how to further improve an idea or a product. Inclusive leaders leverage the diversity of their team in spurring innovation, challenging assumptions, identifying blind spots and therefore create an effective solution for their client.
- Optimism: Intel co-founder Robert Noyce once said that “optimism is an essential ingredient of innovation. How else can the individual welcome change over security, adventure over staying in safe places?”. Most entrepreneurs tends to be optimists because, an optimist sees opportunities, where others see uncertainty and despair during the time of crisis. Optimists have the successful mindset. Optimists are great communicators too, because one can not contaminate others with their enthusiasm without strong communication skill. When the team is looking for inspiration, which they are not finding from today’s all negative news headline, only an optimist can infuse the team with enthusiasm and instil confidence, by assuring that in the end, everything that happens, happens for good.
- Risk Taking: New Age leaders are brave and optimists. New age leaders, inspired by their vision and purpose, are not afraid to put their vulnerability on the line and follow their heart. These leaders very well understand that the cost of inaction and pain of regret for not taking risk, far outweighs the outcome of failure. Imagine our world without risk takers. The only people, who ever made a significant positive difference to our world were those brave souls, who pursued their vision and stayed on course despite of all setbacks and criticism. Without risk, growth and innovation are impossible. Steve Jobs famously said: “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart”
- Decision Making: New age leaders, are capable of taking effective and prompt decisions with limited information by using their analytical and critical thinking skills and draw upon the collective strengths and experiences of their diverse team. These leaders very well understand the price of not taking timely decision.
- Walk the talk: The difference between a person’s audio (what he says) and a person’s video (how he behaves) is known as the integrity gap. Nothing can demoralise the team, more than their leader not walking the talk. A leader must model the behaviour they want their team to follow. Due to their high level of integrity, new age leaders always model the behaviour they want their team to follow. Those who do not walk the talks, have zero integrity and usually have very low self-esteem. Therefore such people cannot be trusted and are dangerous for any organisation or team. Walking the talk creates a positive feedback loop, which increases self-esteem and boosts morale and will power of an individual.
- Leading the Change: New age leader are change-ready. Change-ready individual embraces and lead change. They understand the process of change and how it affects most people, and are skilled at inspiring people to embrace and advocate change. Change is here to stay. Therefore change readiness is a critical skill for every leader in leading teams and organisations in new age economy.
All of the above leadership skills are non-negotiable and critical pre-requisite for leading organisations and teams in new age economy. Anything less would seriously damage the team morale and would be a serious threat to the sustainability of an organisation. However it is worth noting that the like any skills, all of the above skills can be acquired through proper training and practise. Charisma is the result of effective leadership, not the other way around.
As the Chinese philosopher Lao-Tsu famously said: To lead people, walk beside them. As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence.The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate. When the best leader’s work is done the people say, “We did it ourselves!”
Futurist, Strategist, Mentor, Angel Investor