COVID-19 accelerated our move into the Future of Work and forced organizations and leaders to transition to adapt to the new demands quickly.
While the pandemic altered the business landscape, it also made it clear that the idea of leadership (that we had) needed transformation as well. The style of leadership that thrived with command and control must move out the door. The idea that strong leadership is shaped by strict direction and delegation and demands dutiful obedience does not fit into the new narrative.
As the world of work continues to grapple with the disruptions to the professional space and personal lives, it is only those leaders who remain effective who have identified the shift that leadership needs. It is clear that leaders can either command or control – they cannot do both.
The Leadership Shift
The best leaders have always believed that their role is to inspire and motivate others to act – not to dictate. By surrendering ‘control’, leaders invite people to discover their individual potential and build an ‘ownership culture’…one that goes beyond accountability and inspires people to do more than the minimum.
True leaders do not rise to the top because they want to control or command people. If these have been motivations, then they need to revisit why they chose to become a leader in the first place.
The pandemic disrupting the world of work and the rising dominant millennial population have made leadership and leadership styles a hot topic of conversation. Additionally, the preconceived notions of strength are no longer conducive in this new world of work.
Leadership expert Seth Godin succinctly states that it is very uncomfortable for leaders to say, “I want to go over there, and I’m going to be responsible for getting us over there, and no one has ever been over there, and I’m not sure how to get over there, but let’s go.”
But this needs to change simply because unconventional times need unconventional solutions as controlling, polarizing behaviors and actions disengage and alienate their workforce.
The Vision Conundrum
The command-and-control style of leadership leans heavily on “vision”. While vision inspires, motivates, and gives direction and hope, this enchantment with vision presents a disembodied conception of leadership – one that manages to captivate our imagination, but rarely does it have a positive effect on ourselves…think working yourself to exhaustion.
Vision does promise us a future but makes a huge demand on our lives. So just as a vision has the power to ignite, it has the power to burn out, especially when it comes as an infallible directive.
The limitations of leadership that remain encrusted in vision become painfully obvious in the time of crisis. Crisis tests vision. Most don’t survive. This is because when a crisis strikes, such as a natural disaster or a sudden drop in revenues, we are already motivated to move. But what leads to failure is not the clarion call to action but the flailing. What people need from leaders is more than vision. They need direction to move purposefully.
This shift to build shared purpose and lead successfully does not come from control-and-command. Instead, it comes from developing the ability to contain, interpret, and respond with reassurance. It helps the workforce reorient, refocus, and stick together by making sense of the prevailing predicament.
Those leaders who can contain and hold mutual support ensure that work continues and eventually, a new vision emerges. Approaching this from a place of control is counterproductive as it only leads to anxiety and fragmentation – the exact opposite of the desired outcomes that we want from leadership.
VUCA and the Leader
Organizations of all shapes and sizes now realize that to survive in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment, we need different leadership skills. Controlling leadership behaviors ensure that the distribution of leadership capabilities does not permeate across the length and breadth of the organization.
As we move into remote work, leaders need to help employees gain more agency by enabling digital adhocracies that rely on individual initiative. This helps employees across the board to become more independent and harness skills that help them make decisions that are aligned with corporate culture, values, and strategy.
The Dawn of New Leadership
Much like how chefs balance multiple ingredients to achieve a delectable balance of flavors and create masterful meals, leadership skills need to balance humanity and technology. This means that leaders will have to embrace technology to enable work and improve the organization, their job role now demands them to provide employees with a sense of purpose. They need now move away from this old way of thinking that considers control as strength and march towards a mindset of service towards their internal and external customers.
Leaders today and in the future will have to be explorers who are willing to embrace the unknown, are open to new ideas, and can change course as the world around them evolves. Just like explorers of the past who learned continuously to quench their curiosity, leaders must learn to be perpetually curious and open to dialogue and discovery.
Peer Coaching to Drive Change
While leaders need to build technical dexterity, what is even more essential is to increase their psychological capital.
Leaders need to develop skills such as empathy and have an extremely high emotional quotient to lead effectively in this age of hybrid work. They need to identify ways to transition to virtual leaders from remote bosses.
All these skills need a systemic shift in thinking patterns and an unlearning of learned behaviors that come with social conditioning and mindsets. Organizations cannot drive these shifts by organizing annual leadership retreats or day/week-long training sessions. These shifts need a behavioral change, one that comes from peer coaching, since it contextually and continuously reaffirms the right actions, provides timely feedback, and is powered by relevance.
With peer coaching, leaders can develop the right attitudes that help them power through setbacks and negativity with a positive attitude and approach. Peer coaching helps leaders identify the reasons why they need to leave their ego at the door and helps them understand why they need to subjugate their personal agendas for the greater good of the organization. For this, leaders need to build authenticity, self-awareness, and honesty which can be achieved with peer coaching.
Peer coaching helps leaders realize that leadership is not a solo sport but a team effort. It is only by releasing control, delegating effectively, and learning the language of the workforce that employees will join them in supporting their vision and help move their strategy forward. Releasing control can be difficult, but with the right interventions and the right information presented through peer coaching, achieving this no longer remains a pipedream.
Connect with our team of experts to develop a robust peer coaching strategy using a powerful AI-driven peer coaching platform and transform leadership development in your organization.