I have always been interested in the impact of people's behaviour on others. Most of the time, the effect we have is unintentional. We didn't mean our words and actions as they were interpreted. The modern world is ruthless in its transparency, and for many, this has led to a situation where people no longer dare to say and do anything but vanilla. At the same time, the environment is crying out, "Inspire me, give me hope, give me a clear direction". What to do?
My work as a coach and supporting companies operating internationally in renewal have provided an excellent opportunity to observe people's behaviour concerning the needed leadership. Here are my key observations:
01 People shy away from each other. The staff shy away from leaders and the leaders shy away from the staff. The more different the other one seems, the more wary we are. Even if we don't put on a mask, we don't quite dare to be ourselves, even though we know that authenticity appeals.
02 We think people know us because we believe we know them. To build a climate of trust, a leader must have the courage to let people get to know them. By this, I mean sharing ideas, values, perceptions, insecurities and hopes. This is easy in a small group, but it is more challenging in a larger organisation. You need the courage to open more than just the vanilla jars in both cases.
03 We imagine that our organisation is flat and agile. Because we divide it into a maximum of three horizontal levels, in practice, both management and staff actively participate in a game called hierarchy: management expects the staff to show initiative and courage, while decision-making processes treat people like criminals with evil intentions. On the other hand, staff expect clear guidelines on where to go and what to do. If only we dared to put the power where the wisdom resides, as close as possible to the actual doing. And if only we all dared to go out and do something, even if we are not quite sure what will happen.
04 We give our all to refine processes. We do not dare to believe that growth and renewal come from paying attention to people. You can't squeeze a lemon indefinitely, but human creativity is limitless as long as we give it space and time. Refrain from exhausting others and yourself with endless optimisation. The optimum can only be reached for finite things, not for growth.
05 We are products of our history. Our present is an echo of the past. What brought us to this point does not carry us into the future. We must have the courage to start fumbling around to bring the future to us. And take others with us. We need a whole host of different interpretations of what we are observing. It is no longer enough for a leader to be approachable. They have to approach others themself - including those hard-to-approach people and organisations.
06 Data. The mantra "what you measure increases" is only partly true. It might be more accurate to say that you get what you measure. Measuring - and monitoring - get things moving, but does it get the action you need? All too often, managers forget the central role of people at work. To make people shine, you need to be able to appeal to their emotions. The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action, while reason leads only to conclusions.
The more complex and fast-changing the world becomes, the more aware leaders need to become of the impact of their communication and behaviour and the leadership tools they build and use. To lead in an inspiring and empowering way in ambiguity, one must first and foremost be aware of who one is and what one stands for.
"A leader who knows their personal values and lives by them creates clarity around them and a basis for building trust and enthusiasm. As human beings, we believe not so much what we are told, but what we see happening."
In a voice flavoured with 40 years of professional experience, I sum up my observation as "it can be a long way to get close". Since we are all a little blind to ourselves, it is worth having a personal coach when slipping into bigger boots at the very latest. They will help you see yourself and discover your strengths and potential for development.
A human being wrote this text. She loves cooking and letting people in.
By discovering new ways of thinking, new strengths and approaches, a leader is able to respond to tomorrow's challenges. Find out in which type of situations executive coaching can be beneficial.
About the author
Hannamari Kuosa has worked in international leadership roles, including strategy and business development, strategic HR, B2B marketing, brand building, global harmonisation of business processes, and cultural transformations. She is highly interested in leadership within complex organisations and across different cultures. Driving innovation and preparing organisations for the future are at the core of everything she engages in.
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