Here in New Zealand we are in the middle of a general election campaign. I know that my thoughts have turned to the country, policies and the behaviour of the media and of politicians. My usual pondering on resilience, well-being and creativity have taken a bit of a back seat. If you are like me the time you used to spend catching up on blogs is now spent following politicians and the news. Therefore I won’t add to your information flow with a long post until after the election now. But all the election coverage and leadership churn has got me thinking about leadership so here are four brief thoughts about leadership, in particular how we are seeing leadership change.
1) We no longer have a shared idea of what leadership is and what it should look like.
As I say often, the world has changed and is changing (fast), there are distinct differences in thinking between younger people and older people (or more traditional people) and added to this mix we also have contributions from other cultures. There are contrasting threads and ideas about what leadership is. Command and control still seems to be a dominant expectation of leaders from older or more traditional thinkers. This definition of leadership is not so common among younger people who place more importance on the ability of leaders to collaborate, network, be diplomatic and to encourage and support a team towards a shared vision.
2) We no longer need leaders who know things.
In previous eras (industrial era for example) a leader used to be the person who knew things. They may even have been the only one who knew things or had access to information. Information was scarce and prized. We expected leaders to know lots and to know more than their followers. It seems that although the world has moved on dramatically from the industrial era it has taken a while for the public to grasp how this affects our ideas of leadership. We are now moving well beyond the knowledge era. We have access to information like it is water flowing from a tap. A leader can no longer and needs no longer to know everything. Instead, we need leaders with discernment. Leaders who know where to get good advice, good credible information and make good sound decisions. We need leaders who can point to which information is important and to make the implications understandable for us.
3) We no longer need solo leaders.
Previously leadership was seen as a solo task. One lone person where the buck stopped. There is a slow movement away from this model, an awareness that leadership as a solo task is not good for business or countries or individuals. Letting one person shoulder the responsibility and vision is too much work, too much weight for one set of shoulders. We are ready to see the growth of leadership teams, where responsibility and vision creation are shared. This allows for more synergy, creativity and a more healthy work life balance.
4) We no longer need perfection.
We say that we want our leaders to be authentic. We want to know that they are like us - fallible, human. Yet, on the other hand, we are not quite ready for them to make mistakes, we still want to hold leaders to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. Now I am not sure whether this has come from the media or the public, or perhaps one section of society. There is a resistance to the idea that people can grow, develop change, become better at things - there has been a pressure to be perfect, to have all the experience you need right now. In this rapidly changing world no-one can have everything they need now for the unknown tomorrow - instead, we need leaders who can show they are learners, that can show they can develop and grow and adapt as the world changes.
What have you noticed about leadership?
How have you seen ideas of leadership changing?