This Blog is on Leadership Development. If leaders do not continuously learn and reinvent themselves, they might have difficulties to maintain their leadership. Or as Tshamani Mathebula says it: they will become extinct.
The VUCA World
Since the 1990’s there’s been a lot of reference to the VUCA world. It refers to the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of the business environment. Organizations should consider the elements of VUCA when making strategic plans and decisions. Innovation is deemed to be necessary for organizations to survive and remain relevant in this world. Customers are no longer interested in legacy, but what organizations can do for them today.
This means that individuals specifically leaders, are also expected to be innovative if they are to remain relevant. Leaders can no longer rely on their experiences only. People stop listening when leaders use words such as “we used to do it like this”. They are looking for leaders who are able to use their experience in a manner that is relevant to current challenges and realities.
“What is that which always is and has no becoming, and what is that which becomes but never is”
In an environment that is always changing, leaders are faced with the challenge to innovate and reinvent themselves. This enables them to remain relevant without losing their core essence. It is important for leaders to first define their leadership identity and philosophy. This then becomes their personal brand. It differentiates them from other leaders. Having a clear understanding of their personal brand enables leaders to innovate without losing who they are.
Leaders can learn a lot from artists. They manage to reinvent themselves. In South Africa we have Bra Hugh Masekela. His music has evolved with the times. However, his signature sound, voice, sense of humour and trumpet has remained as is. He has identified his personal brand and innovated around it. He is 78 years old, but the young and old sing along and dance to his music.
Ways in which leaders can innovate and reinvent themselves include:
Continuous learning to ensure agility.
It allows leaders to be flexible, grow from mistakes, and remain resilient. Douglas Kruger, in his book “50 ways to Innovate” quotes Alvin Toffler’s philosophy that “the illiterate of the 21st century are not those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”. Gone are the days when leaders were admired because of their academic qualifications. These qualifications give them a foothold into organizations and different platforms. However, what will increase and sustain their credibility is what they do when they are given such opportunities.
Organizations are interested in performance. Employees are very critical about their leaders’ leadership skills and style. They challenge what you know.
This does not mean that leaders must know everything. However, leaders should be able to know the changes that are happening within their industry and areas of expertise. They should be able to unlearn the old and relearn new things continuously.
Leaders should never be married to their qualifications, knowledge and ideas. They should be open minded and know that there are certain things they don’t know. Leaders are encouraged to attend conferences to help them network with other colleagues. The conferences also help to keep them updated about the latest developments in the industry. Furthermore, it puts them around an energy force that stimulates innovation.
Read beyond your area of expertise
Sometimes leaders can get stuck in reading leadership books and literature only. This only makes them to be experts in their field. It doesn’t allow them to understand the world and challenges outside their frame of reference. Reading different subjects and interacting with people that are different to you expands your world view. Human Resources professionals and other support functions who show understanding, and can speak the business language in their organizations receive a lot of respect from line managers. Their advice is often sought and listened to by their clients. Hence they are able to positively influence and contribute in the strategic direction of their organization. Such leaders are able to move and be promoted to any strategic position within their organization.
Challenge yourself with a “what if” question
Douglas Kruger challenges organizations to look at what is awful about their products and services. He encourages organizations to look at and experience their products from their customers’ perspective. As a leader, it is important to be aware of the impact you have on others. How people experience you as a leader. It is unfortunate that the world is governed by perception and not by facts or truth. People tend to make decisions based on their sensory perceptions. People are always watching leaders. Leaders are judged by their behavior without really understanding all the issues that lie below the waterline. They are also expected to role model the behavior that is aligned to the organizations’ values. The challenge for leaders is therefore to ask themselves questions such as:
- “I have good relationships with my colleagues and team members, but what if I could improve my interactions with them”;
- “I have just conducted Performance discussions with my team members and I think it went well, what if I could improve my performance coaching skills”
Failure to innovate
It is a bitter pill to swallow. However as human beings we must accept that we are replaceable. Failure to reinvent ourselves in our careers can render us obsolete. Rasmus Ankerson, in his book “the gold mine effect”, interviewed Sentayehu Eshetu, an athletics coach in Bekoji (Ethiopia). The coach trains about 300 youngsters at a time. These youngsters are willing to do anything to succeed. Their biggest fear is not to be discovered.
Unfortunately some leaders behave as if they are indispensable. Literature is full of case studies about organizations that refused to adapt to change. They ended up being destroyed by new players in the market. The question for leaders is therefore, what are you willing to do to remain relevant in your position?
Coaching and Mentoring
Leaders are encouraged to appoint a Coach and a Mentor. These professionals help to challenge and stretch leaders out of their comfort zone.
Leaders should continuously reinvent themselves or they will become extinct.