Leading for the future – Navigating the new normal through COVID-19

Megan Reed, 8 June, 2020

The future. Are you excited? Or are you worried? Because if we felt like the last few months finding our feet in the ‘new normal’ through COVID-19 were disruptive, we had better hold on to our hats!

Futurists suggest that the next 20 years will bring about more change than we have experienced over the last 300*! Through digitisation, big data, artificial intelligence, climate change and global shifts in power, we feel an increased volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity in the world around us. Technology is rebooting the very idea of work – how we work, when we work, where we work, and to some extent why we work – let alone it’s impact on leadership and how we inspire confidence, trust and vision for those who we lead. To operate successfully in today’s fast-moving, complex climate, leaders often feel that we have to run just to keep still.  Sound familiar?

We are indeed operating in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world.  New technology comes in and disrupts markets almost overnight.  Competitors emerge from unexpected corners.  Political and economic situations shift rapidly. Unprecedented global pandemics rock our foundations and bring to us a whole ‘new normal’.  So what can we do about it?  The key is to get out of our comfort zones and think beyond conventional leadership practices. It’s time for disruption.

Innovating with disruption

The late Clayton M. Christensen is the father of DISRUPTIVE INNOVATION—the idea that the most successful innovations are those that create new markets and value networks, thereby upending existing ones. Volumes of research and evidence show how disruptive thinking improves the odds of success for products, companies, even countries.  And it’s time to bring that thinking into how we lead our people.

Leading with influence

In today’s complex world, success often depends on working with people over whom you have no official authority.  Old fashioned command and-control leadership—the “I lead, you follow” approach—doesn’t get a manager very far. Today’s leaders – especially when leading remotely - need high-level influencing skills and the ability to collaborate with a wide range of stakeholders, in order to cut through the noise.

Sharing the bigger picture

Leaders need to prioritise helping their people understand the bigger picture and how they personally fit into it. This provides them with context and consistency in a world where complexity and ambiguity is champing at the bit to take the reins!  It helps leaders make sure that their entire team is rowing in the same direction – not inadvertently sabotaging your progress by having some rowing the wrong way. And this is especially true when you lead a team that you do not see – whether by design or by circumstance (such as remote working solutions to COVID 19).  Your teams need to be able to revert back to their single source of truth, in your absence.  Afterall – the countless number of operational decisions that you rely on your team to make every day for your business success, relies on them making them with your core purpose and values at their heart.

Culture to thrive

As a leader, your role in all this is in alignment; creating the leadership culture that enables your people to thrive and deliver exceptional results, even under conditions of significant pressure and challenges.​  Successful leadership in a VUCA world grows out of positive chemistry between people.  This is not new.  But what is new, is the growing need for leaders to help their teams understand the contextin which decisions are being made, acknowledging the complexity of today’s world, and realizing the critical role that we as leaders play in enabling connectivity amongst and for the people we lead.   This is all about building trust and building relationships.  

Now, more than ever, it is time to give ourselves permission to sharpen our own saws and invest in our leadership capabilities.  Disruptive innovation for leaders is about YOU having the skills that help your people be at their best, when it matters most.  After all - at the end of the day, our job is not to compete with technology – our job is to be the human element.

Megan Reed is a QUT Master of Business (Human Resource Management) graduate an active member of our alumni community.

*Futurist Gerd Leonhard, 2016.

Author

Megan Reed

Megan is an experienced HR Executive and QUT Business School alumna with over 20 years of international, corporate experience and proud recipient of the QUT St. George Bank Women International Scholarship.

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