As American leadership and leadership styles are front and centre this week, it confirms that leading is hard. It takes effort for most people, not everyone is a born leader and leadership can be learned.
Leadership, like most theories and skills, is evolving in response to changing needs and circumstances. The stress, fast-paced rate of change, and the multiple demands for our attention necessitate leadership change. What made you successful and got you to where you are now will probably not get you to where you want to go next. Here are some newer, emerging leadership styles that can help you develop further.
There are newer leadership styles that have been emerging based on the evolution of people and work. Here is a summary of five of those styles.
Compassionate Leadership – Often quoted as getting its prominence from an internal initiative at Google in 2007 to bring mindfulness, emotional intelligence and leadership together. It’s about using the head and heart together to lead, a concept I fully endorse in my book, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, compassion “is the “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” Compassionate Leadership requires feeling what another feels (beyond just distress I think), understanding their thoughts and what’s underneath those thoughts and feelings and the desire to act for the betterment of the individual. This deep listening and understand necessitates mindfulness to suspend your thoughts, perspectives and judgements. Research, some by Harvard psychology professor Dr Ellen Langer, shows that mindfulness improves charisma and productivity, decreases burnout and accidents, and increases creativity, memory, attention, positive affect, health, and even longevity¹.
Inclusive Leadership – Inclusive leadership focuses on inclusion, diversity and having the “differences” present and participating in the situation. It ensures all people are represented and treated respectfully and all people feel valued and a sense of belonging. Leadership that is inclusive of all disparities or dissimilarities is what is needed. It’s especially relevant now with gender inequality, Black Lives Matter, differences in peoples’ situations around coronavirus, LGBTQ+, multiple generations in many organizations and more. For more on this, read my blog here.
Agile Leadership – Evolving from the software development industry, agile leadership is about creating the context for employees to collaborate, learn, give feedback, respond quickly in pursuit of better solutions. Constant learning and a growth mindset are key. It’s not about driving change, rather it’s about being the change and facilitating others to do the same. It involves being present to develop new insights, adapting to ‘what is’, being quick and decisive, being resilient, creative and innovative, letting go of what doesn’t work, guiding others and striving for better, more value, or improvement.
Conscious Leadership – This starts from a more internal perspective, becoming aware of internal automatic or habitual thoughts and responses so that we are no longer ‘run’ by them blindly. Once we become aware of those unconscious drivers in our thoughts, emotions and body sensations we can create what is needed rather than defaulting to something unconscious. In The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kaley Warner-Klemp, the authors talk of it being an iceberg – the tip of the iceberg above the water is our external projection while the bigger piece below is our assumptions, beliefs, and self-created identity. Some aspects of conscious leadership are that we are responsible for our circumstances, our thoughts create our emotions, practice integrity, eliminate gossip, being curious and experiencing the world as an ally.
Mindful Leadership – Although the idea of being mindful might be newer in leadership, its roots in Buddhist practices is age old. Being mindful is about being present, in the moment, fully aware of what is transpiring. Initially it focuses on two aspects of emotional intelligence – self-awareness and self-management. Being mindful or aware of yourself is the starting point, and then ensuring you manage yourself to be as effective as possible in a given situation or interaction. A mindful leader has a presence and practice that is focused, clear, creative, and compassionate in serving. The biggest factor to do that is creating space/time to be present.
As you can see there are some overlaps and commonalities across these leadership styles. They are distinctly different from the command and control styles of the industrial and manufacturing era. That’s because work now is more complex, times changes so much more rapidly, and constant innovation is required. Here are some common threads from these 5 styles that you can incorporate into your leadership practice.
What You Can Practice from these Leadership Styles
1. Being conscious, aware or mindful of yourself. Download the first chapter of my book free to help you KNOW YOURSELF better, to identify unconscious assumptions, beliefs, biases and preferences and motivators. From that place of self-awareness, you can then focus on others. It’s like the plane analogy of putting on your oxygen mask first before helping others put on theirs.
2. Lead with both your head and heart. This is scary and vulnerable and uncertain for many people. There’s always talk about work and business being ‘all about the facts.’ Except we are human beings with emotions and full lives beyond just work. Companies want the emotions of passion, loyalty, respect to name just a few to be present at work; what’s the denial about other emotions also being present at work? Leading from your heart doesn’t have to mean spilling your emotions around. It can be listening with such heart-felt attention or sensing that you feel the emotions of others and help them with those emotions, so they can be productive and happy. For example, if a colleague seems sad, you could say “I sense you’re sad, what’s up?” This allows the colleague to share or at least know they have been seen authentically. You don’t have to do anything with the emotion often, just having it named or shared is enough.
3. Be present in the moment. This is actually very hard because of the pervasiveness of technology in our lives. Technological advances such as email, smart phones, IM (instant messaging) and social media are all designed to disrupt us with their flashes and sounds. Notifications are called notifications for a reason. Research shows that these disruptions make us less efficient, reduce our attention span and cause stress. Research, some mentioned above, also shows that our efficiency and effectiveness are improved when we do focus. Choose to be present for what you’ve chosen to do. If in a meeting, be in that meeting, listening, processing, contributing, sensing – don’t be thinking of your unanswered emails (certainly don’t be trying to answer your emails while in the meeting). If the meeting doesn’t require your attention, why are you attending?
These suggestions of ideas to practice from newer leadership styles are not commonplace and probably not comfortable for most leaders. So what? You want to be better or have a different impact than you have now? You can change. If anything, coronavirus has proven to us that people can adapt and change when it matters enough to them.
I challenge you to try one small thing inspired by the styles above to improve your leadership.
What aspects of your leadership would be worthwhile to explore?
Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here to get support during an unusual time. Many successful (and famous) leaders have professionals to help them perform to the best of their ability – be like them.
¹Dr Ellen Langer, Mindfulness, Da Capo Lifelong Books (30 Oct. 2014) Philadelphia PA. Print. https://hbr.org/2010/04/leaders-time-to-wake-up
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