There has almost never been a more challenging time to be a leader in business. Markets are changing rapidly, technology continues to outpace our ability to advance with it, and the world itself seems to be spinning faster. Companies frequently amass huge successes and then flame out within a decade, a turn around time that is unprecedented in modern times.
But the optimistic, opportunistic leaders in the business sphere will see these challenges as pivotal growing points for their companies, the chance to rise above what is standard and expected. But with this opportunity comes the responsibility to effectively transition teams from what used to be done to what must be done to thrive in the future. It is this high calling that makes the art of leadership more important than ever.
Leading a Business Through Uncertainty
Arguments could be made for many qualities that bolster good leadership, but there are three things a leader must master to be effective.
Have The Conversation
Conversation is the root of all progress. It is the essence of communication. What we discuss with our partners, what we hear from our clients, what we say to our employees, these are all conversations that direct our course in one direction or another.
Executive Consultant and conversation expert Aviv Shahar says that in order to create new futures for ourselves, we must begin by creating new conversations. This has to be done purposefully and requires that we consider our conversation framework. We must go beyond searching for the answer to “What?” questions and look for the answers to “Why?” and “How?” In Shahar’s book Create New Futures, he outlines the need to examine communication inside and outside an organization and ask, “Are we having the right conversation? Is there another conversation we should be having right now?” Shahar suggests that if a company continues to run into the same struggles, it is because they are failing to innovate their dialogue.
“As you engage in new conversations, your brain makes new and novel synaptic connections,” says Shahar. “These newly born circuitries bring forward fresh ideas, suggest viable solutions to previously intractable problems, inspire creative expression, and unleash innovation breakthroughs.”
This intentionality of communication opens up doors to ideas and perspectives previously unmined. Leaders have the power to steer these conversations, thus shaping an organization’s mission and goals and create paths for them to reach new horizons.
Communication is necessarily a two-way street. There is room to direct, but there must also be time to listen. Any organization’s greatest resource is its people; its greatest challenges will be the unknown. People can be empowered to overcome the unknown by an effective leader.
Often, leaders assume it is their job to have all the answers, to know exactly which step to take next. However, this approach to leadership cuts off the circulation of ideas and opportunities to innovate. From the bottom rung of a company to the top, people will have thoughts on how to improve the workings of the business. Some of these will be without merit; some will be game-changers. What good is learning how to shape conversations to gain a better understanding for the workings, the struggles, and the possible solutions to a business if a leader refuses to accept what she hears?
Admitting that a problem exists requires humility. Accepting solutions that come from others requires discernment and wisdom. Part of being a leader is learning how to be an impartial judge. The high speed of business today demands that leaders allow others to inform them of circumstances and influences that they could not be aware of by themselves.
Learn From Your Failures
Unfortunately, an ever-changing present means navigating uncharted waters. The world has changed continuously over in the last three decades with the growth of workplace technology, advancement in workplace equality and norms, and the increasing globalization of business on the most basic levels. Leaders are having to relearn the ropes every few years because the ropes keep changing. This cannot be done without a few failures. What will separate those businesses that make it from those that do not is their willingness to rapidly learn from failure.
Failure facilitates two kinds of growth. According to Glenn Llopis, author of The Innovation Mentality, failure provides practical, how-to instructions, about how things don’t work. Leaders will learn how to regrow and reinvent from these experiences. But they also shape who leaders are as people. They instill mental stamina and drive character growth. Failure shapes the leaders who will shape the future.
The fear of failure should not keep us from taking risks and the impacts of failure should not keep us down. A leader’s job is to determine which risks to take and how to get back up from those which are not successful.
Shahar says, “Preparing for the future presents you with a stark choice. You can either try catching up with change that’s happening around you, or you can lead the change.” Conversation, the purposeful, meaningful search for understanding, ideas and solutions, backed by an open mind and the boldness to fail are the qualities that will allow a leader to create the future.
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