Are Leadership Traits Changing? Or Do They Need To?
In moments of silence, it’s nice to sit back and think about the world, where it’s going and what we’re leaving behind for the children of tomorrow.
For over 100 years, we’ve seen an education system centred on two subjects which was originally designed to separate officers from front line soldiers in the military. If you could read well and were good at maths you were an officer. If you can’t add up, here’s a gun – good luck!
Slowly we’ve watched an evolution. Of people. Of technology. Of learning. Of understanding.
The advances in the last decade or so have in many ways surpassed the centuries of thinking that came before it.
Google has re-organised the worlds information (along with countless other inventive projects we come to rely on in our every day lives).
The schooling system is changing too. It needs to. Doctors and lawyers were once the jobs to aspire to. Now it’s professional sports, the next music sensation, and next Silicon Valley style Billionaire with a cool app or tech creation.
These are exciting times. The opportunities are broader than ever.
Leaders Are At The Heart Of It All
In any industry, business, arts, sports – you find leaders.
Leaders are the ones who gravitate to the centre of influence that pulls others along with their example and vision.
But are the Leadership Qualities Changing?
The world is more connected. More transparent. It could be argued more social although the depth of relationships versus volume of connections is an interesting conversation for another day.
But what real Leaders have is massive networks AND the depth of connection with people. LinkedIn identifies these as “Influencers” and it’s an appropriate title for such leaders.
So what are the traits?
Trait # 1 – Incredible Personal Communication Skills
Because the work force has changed and highly talented people and more in power of their working lives with what I like to call “the new currency” which is working with the freedom they choose. Highly talented people cannot be contained inside the walls of an office tower with a good view any longer. They want to smell the air. They want to work from under the tree instead of sit looking at the tree from behind the glass. A businesses new job is to make that happen – bean bag and all!
I still know CEO’s who worry about how it will look to others. I say “Who Cares!”
The only two things that matter is…
1) Are they happy?
2) Do they get the job done?
Your best copywriter should be allowed to work in their underwear from anywhere in the world at the hours that suits them – if they produce the results. And the fact is they do!
Being so connected with the technology we have at our finger tips means creating opportunities that tick the box on both financial freedom and these days and just as importantly, location freedom and time freedom which really has become the new currency.
People work with people they like. And highly talented people won’t stay where they are not respected and treated well.
Communication skills become paramount in two ways.
One, you need great communication skills to understand how your remote staff are performing. You can have the systems, CRM’s, project manage with Trello or TODOIST etc – but if you don’t get an insight into their level of happiness, work satisfaction, understand their personal goals, you may lose a valuable personal asset.
Communication skills need to be written and spoken more than ever.
The ability for key management to write well has increased. You may not get some people by phone or Skype – so you need to be able to read between the lines to understand how well settled your people are.
Trait # 2 – Holistic Visions That Benefit All Humankind “The Ripple Effect”
The Worlds best leaders have an incredible ability to think holistically, to think big, and see the dots connect beyond what most people’s thinking can keep up with.
A business plan may not start out with a conscious thought to solve the world’s problems or even incorporate so many elements into helping others. But when a leader possesses a character ethic that is deeply engrained in “doing good” you will see these things flow from the growth of their original idea.
Richard Branson has done it countless times. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet all give millions back to charities most people have never even heard of. And I’m sure when Sergey and Larry started Google, they weren’t thinking about Google Glass or their DNA project.
Leaders are always talked about in the same sentence as the word “Vision”. But the greatest of leaders possess a strategic, connect-the-dots, holistic vision that others don’t.
The minds of “Ripple Effect Leaders” get glimpses of the impact and flow on effect each successful portion of their project can touch. They see it trickling throughout communities, bringing multiple businesses and people together. They see it before a single thing has started.
In the SME’s world, I meet a lot of people who don’t think of, and in some cases couldn’t care less about their impact on the world. They just want to make a buck and live their lives. And maybe that’s fine too. But we need to teach our children something about leadership for future generations. And the classic “Win-win” mentality is what sits at the heart of this “Ripple Effect” visionary-styled leadership ability and I believe it can be taught.
Trait # 3 – Childlike Curiosity
There is something magical watching a child try and figure out a stack of building blocks. To see their minds working creatively to conceptualise something that doesn’t exist yet. To understand how it works, what possibilities can come of this.
“Curiosity is a leadership trait.”
The energy that comes from “having to know”, or wanting answers is a powerful driver.
In personal development circles, we often hear “Action cures fear”. And I believe this is true. But I also believe “Curiosity Prevents Fear”. To wander into the woods without a map is not an act of bravery. It’s an act of curiosity. And with curiosity, fear doesn’t even arrive. So pure action then comes from curiosity.
“Let’s see what happens” is a powerful statement. It prevents stagnation in business. The marketing department works within budget parameters but is not strangled by fear of failure when a spirit of curiosity is at the forefront. Having the guts to test and find the answers when you really “don’t know” how things will turn out, happens to be a great quality. Better than faking it like you know, when you don’t.
Freakonomics Authors, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner new book “Think Like a Freak” talks about the 3 Words which people find hardest to say, which are “I don’t know”.
If you can embrace the “I don’t know” and stop protecting your ego with answers to questions you really don’t know, your learning potential is massively increased. Curiosity sits at the heart of this.
Leaders of Tomorrow, What Now? Go Learn!
If you are in a position of influence with children, staff or community (which basically means everyone!), you need to think about the leadership qualities and the not only the lessons we are trying to teach, but how we teach them.
To truly learn something means experiencing it.
This article will do nothing if no action is taken. To truly develop leadership qualities, one must submit themselves to the training of an athlete in the mental realm that leads to the emotional learning only found in thinking hard, communicating a vision, trying, failing, not knowing all the answers and going to find them.
Win-win is a practice. A philosophy. A lifestyle habit that is deeply integrated into the hearts and minds of great leaders. They have developed it by winning. Winning solo and winning in teams.
Success that breeds lessons learned breeds a cycle of more success.
Success celebrated without an understanding of how one arrived at the success, is a lost opportunity.
Leaders learn. They learn about industries. How things work. Leaders learn about the problems people face and think of ways to solve them and learn from that all over again. The learning never stops. It ties in with every trait above. Learning to communicate better has power. It saves time. Reduces errors. Makes people feel better, clearer and more empowered.
Is Leadership Changing? Hmmm…. I don’t know!
Let me know your thoughts on “Ripple Effect Leaders” and where you see the next evolution of Leadership taking us.