Lead from here series

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Leadership is now being tested on many levels in all organisations, institutions and governments. And that’s a good thing!

Leadership needs to be challenged because that’s how we grow and as a result we create more value for our teams and stakeholders.

Granted, these are especially challenging times for leaders but we have two choices where we find ourselves:

Your first choice is this: you can be so overwhelmed by all that is happening around you that you move into a freeze state. – unable to move ahead with strategic intent and paralyzed by fear to the point where you take little to or no action at all. This can be a dangerous state to be in because all things change and when this particular world crisis is over and done, you will be on the back-foot and so will your business.

Your second choice is the one I would highly recommend you to choose and that is to LEAD FROM HERE!

This implies that you take action. This is your opportunity as a leader to be creative, strategic, inspiring and brave.

I think this is a time for authentic leaders to truly shine and make their mark. We have been given an opportunity to re-evaluate what’s important, to consider alternatives and to think about the future in a way that is compassionate towards others and at the same time understanding the impact that our actions have on those around us.

Difficult times I believe give rise to true leadership. If we look back at history we can see how leaders such as Joan of Arc, Catherine the Great, Alexander the Great, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and the likes of influencers such as Albert Einstein, Aristotle, Plato, Mother Theresa.
These are all just a few people that I can think of that have left a legacy behind of courage, bravery, foresight and determination to make the world in one way or another a better place.

Now you might say, well that’s all very well Grant Driver but they were at the right place at the right time, they had better resources, they were more intelligent, more popular and had a platform to share their message. That may be true in some cases but what they all have in common is that they had to start somewhere. And for you as a leader that somewhere is right where you are now at this exact moment in time! Now is your time to stand up, make a difference, make an impact and make good things happen!

Hopefully you’re feeling inspired now to lead through difficult times. On that note, here are my insights on what you can do to navigate and lead during these challenging times.

I have 3 main insights to share with you so that you can lead victoriously through these times. Let’s hit the road running.

FIRST INSIGHT – LEAD FROM THE FRONT AND THE BACK

Your role as a leader during difficult times is to lead from the front and from the back. Leading from the front means that you clearly communicate the vision of what the future will look like post this difficult time. You demonstrate what can be done, you walk your talk and you lead by example. This approach will mean a great deal to your team members. Then you have to lead from the back, meaning that you are an active leader. It requires you to enable innovation, let your team members have a voice – and you listen to what they have to say.

Leading from behind can have a very powerful impact when executed correctly. When leaders move out of the way, and give their team space, then great things can happen. This is an opportunity for real growth!

Especially now that so many organisations globally have to let their employees work from home – there is no better time to empower your team to be autonomous, solve problems and to be adaptable and productive.

I guess what I’m saying here is … move out of the way and give your team the power and opportunity to grow. You’ll be amazed at how they will make good things happen – if you just give them the space to do so.

Challenging times give leaders the opportunity to empower their team members but also to multiply themselves through growing leaders– and that’s the purpose of leadership – to develop new leaders.

SECOND INSIGHT – BE A VISIONARY LEADER

Leaders give us hope. They inspire us to move ahead with courage, enthusiasm and optimism. And that is why I urge you as a leader during this time to craft, and communicate your vision for this time of the global crisis we find ourselves in.

The purpose of Visionary Leadership is to guide a team towards the achievement of a vision that is inspirational, purposeful and meaningful. More than ever I think this is essential for your role as a leader.

But and it’s a big BUT – get input from your team around what they think a short-term vision should be for this time of crisis. This is important to get their buy-in and support to drive the vision to its attainment.

An example of a short team vision could be. “To collaborate, inspire, empower and grow beyond our expectations.”
Or
“Taking each day at a time, we meet our milestones, unified as a team and ensuring we meet the needs of our fellow team members and our customers.”
Or
‘Through our growth mindset we will overcome all challenges, winning as one team and delivering upon the expectations of our team members and customers. Treating everyone with care and compassion.”

The purpose of the vision statement in times such as these is to provide hope, comfort and inspiration,

Remember the famous speech by Winston Churchill in the darkness of World War 2 when he declared, “ We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds” – Okay I think you get the point!

An inspiring vision sets the tone, provides direction, allows for possibility and creates teamwork. Above all the focus is on VICTORY and victorious we will be through to the end of this crisis.

That brings me to the third insight on leading through difficult times:

THIRD INSIGHT: FEARLESS LEADERSHIP

When times appear fearful, as is our current experience, then YOU as a leader have to be fearless. This is your time to show your strength, to display your corporate values.
Another word for fearless is brave. And when fear raises its ominous head the most powerful way to manage that emotion is to be FEARLESS.

Remember that it is our perception of a situation that arouses emotions within us. Fear is a response to a signal from our environment. It is stimulates the fight, flight or freeze reaction. The hormone that is activated at this time is norepinephrine – a hormone that stimulates response to danger. The challenge with fear is that it is a survival emotion. We are not meant to be living in a continuous state of survival and that has dire consequences as it leads to stress and disease. Fear generates cortisol – a hormone that is only meant to be experienced short term.

The current crisis we are in has placed millions of people in a state of fear and survival. Can this be good for any of us? Obviously not!

But now think about the impact that fear is having on business activity and decision-making. It’s huge to say the least. Business owners and leaders are caught-up right now in having to make decisions and at the core of those decisions is the emotion of fear.

The best way to manage fear as a leader is to be FEARLESS.

I’m not sure what picture comes to mind when I refer to Fearless leadership. Maybe you picturing Mel Gibson in Braveheart? Ideally, I’d like you to envision yourself fearlessly moving ahead with your team to fight for a better future for you company, your employees and your customers.

Fearless is the opposite of fearful.

When we are fearful we are afraid of possible future outcomes, we second-guess ourselves and battle to make any firm decisions.

Fearful leaders broadcast a negative energy around themselves – their anxiety is easily sensed and they tend to make team members anxious.

These types of leaders apply punishment to maintain order. Team members are afraid to put a foot out of line and fearful of making any mistakes and consequently tend to withdraw into themselves, this in turn impacts upon innovation, creativity and collaboration.

Company values are not displayed purely because the leader does not display them. This then creates a culture and climate within your organisation that leads to disengagement and the follow-on from that is a huge negative impact on any customer-centricity strategy the company may have envisioned.

On the other-hand, fearless leadership, when executed authentically makes team members feel secure, safe and supported. This is fundamental if you wish to create a high-performance culture and to navigate your team through a crisis period.

How then should you display fearless leadership? Here are three characteristics of displayed fearless leadership:

  1. First characteristic is of Fearless Leaders is that they are not afraid to show vulnerability. Embrace your failures, admit to mistakes and face your imperfections head on. When you are authentic as a leader, people will naturally find you to be honest and trustworthy.
  2. The second characteristic of Fearless Leaders is that they live their company values. They walk their talk. The purpose of values in any company is to create a powerful and sustainable culture. This is the time to not just talk about values but to live them, communicate them and recognise team members who display them.
  3. The third characteristic of Fearless Leaders is that they have a Growth Mindset. This is a mindset that embraces change. Understanding that failure is part of eventual success. It’s a can-do attitude that is reflected in your all your levels of conduct. A Growth Mindset is displayed when you allow for open feedback from team members and accepting all feedback as constructive. Leaders who display a Growth Mindset embrace difficult times with a high degree of positivism and optimism and this attitude becomes more contagious than any virus.

Fearless leaders are inadvertently inspirational leaders and they help people to foster within themselves the courage, hope and determination to overcome personal and professional challenges.

As we approach the end of this blog here’s a summary and checklist that I hope will help you to lead with confidence during this crisis period:

Difficult times come and they go. The current time we find ourselves is an opportunity for you to shine as a leader.

As Carl Jung said, “One doesn’t solve problems; one outgrows them.” We add capacities and experiences that eventually make us bigger than the problem.
Now is the time for leaders to be bigger than any problem. This is an opportunity for you to gain the capacity and the experience that will empower you well into your future as a leader.

On that note, here’s your checklist:

  1. Lead from the front and the back. Show direction from the front and drive innovation by empowering your team.
  2. Display Visionary Leadership. Remember to communicate your company’s vision as a compass to navigate through this time and create a short-term vision together with your team to inspire and drive collaboration and performance during this time. Talk to your company values and display them in all your interactions and communications with your team.
  3. Be Fearless as a leader. Talk honestly about your concerns, express your vulnerability and admit to mistakes you may make. Inspire your team by reminding them that tough times are growth opportunities. Focus on a Growth Mindset that empowers teams to overcome fear and move to fearlessness. Inspire your team with positive stories from your own experience and from the many examples of bravery displayed by great leaders over the ages.
  4. Listen to your team members and encourage them to keep sharing ideas, to share their concerns and to stay connected. It’s imperative that you engage daily with your team during a time of crisis. They need to know that you’re there and that you care.

On that note, remember: ‘Tough times don’t last but tough people do.’ Take care of yourself, stay connected and until next time. Lead from Here!