Transformational Leadership is the first of the six skills that we at Defy Expectations believe leaders will need in the New Normal. Transformational Leadership is not the old command and control leadership as we knew it, nor even some of the other styles of leadership that have been fashionable in the past decade. Transformation Leadership is leadership for a world where humans will work with machines that will, in many ways, be more intelligent than we are. A world where the future of humanity is under threat from climate change, pandemics and natural disasters; a world where populations fight for survival and countries fight over resources; but also a world filled with extraordinary opportunity for the courageous leader.
Leadership in that world will be fundamentally different. Leaders will have to be very agile to survive. We saw in the pandemic how layers of organisation were swept aside as guerrilla leaders in organisations did what they had to do to survive, often implementing in weeks what would have taken years. Guerrilla IT took aged processes and made them work for the new world. Guerrilla accountants let go of tightly held purse strings. Guerrilla marketing went online overnight. Hard lessons were learnt. Many companies that could not react went into a death spiral. In the ones that did many of those changes were driven at low levels in organisations. Old fashioned leadership had to let go. The byzantine processes for budget sign off were bypassed by those who took control.
It worked, but as we go forward into the future, we need to learn the lessons before the next crisis hits. There will be push back to return to the old ways from those who have lost out in this new world. That is no longer an option, creativity and agility is needed at all levels in the organisation. For senior leaders this means creating a framework for the future of the company that supports all areas of the organisation to act in the face of opportunity or disaster without the need for archaic processes that keeps all decision making at the top of an organisation.
What needs to be in this framework?
- The vision and values of the company. These should be agreed and supported by all leaders in the company. This is not a quick exercise. It cannot be done by consultants. It has to stand the test of time and has to be something against which every decision, short or long-term, can be measured. It must be a vision that meets the needs and aspirations of all stakeholders and creates shared purpose.
- A definition of the mindset, behaviours and competencies that will be required for delivering the vision.
- A commitment to invest in team building and leadership training in a thoughtful way that supports the vision and values.
- A framework for decision making where it is clear what decisions can be made by front-line leaders (most decisions) and what decisions (very few) need to involve more senior people.
- A commitment and a process for regular review of successes and failures that is committed to learning lessons rather than allocating reward or blame.
Once this framework is in place then the organisation can move to execution, creating shorter-term objectives that drive towards the vision and values.