leadership

The Leadership Imperative: Cultivating Social Connections for Thriving Individuals and Organizations

As guardians of organizational culture and community dynamics, your role as leaders in fostering social connections has never been more crucial. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for meaningful relationships and a sense of belonging has become glaringly evident. As leaders, it is imperative that we prioritize initiatives that strengthen social connections within our organizations and communities, nurturing thriving individuals and resilient teams.

Social connection is the lifeblood of human interaction, weaving a tapestry of relationships and interactions that form the foundation of our personal and professional lives. Whether within the confines of our workplace or the broader scope of our communities, the quality of social connections profoundly impacts our well-being, productivity, and sense of fulfillment.

Recent research has illuminated the profound impact of social isolation and loneliness on individual health and well-being. Studies have highlighted the association between loneliness, social isolation, and adverse health outcomes, including cardiovascular diseases, mental health disorders, and cognitive decline. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these challenges, underscoring the critical need for leaders to address social isolation within their organizations and support the holistic well-being of their teams.

As leaders, you possess the power to create environments where individuals feel valued, supported, and empowered to thrive. By prioritizing inclusivity, empathy, and collaboration, you can foster a culture of belonging that nurtures the social connections essential for individual and organizational success. Whether through team-building activities, mentorship programs, or open communication channels, your leadership sets the tone for creating a workplace where social connections flourish.

In an era of remote work and digital communication, fostering social connections may require innovative approaches. Leveraging technology to facilitate virtual team gatherings, encouraging informal interactions through online platforms, and providing avenues for peer support and recognition can help bridge the gap created by physical distance and nurture a sense of community within dispersed teams.

Furthermore, initiatives such as employee resource groups, wellness programs, and volunteer opportunities can provide avenues for individuals to connect authentically and contribute to the greater good. By prioritizing the well-being of your team members and fostering a culture of belonging, you not only enhance individual satisfaction and engagement but also lay the foundation for organizational resilience and success.

As we navigate the challenges and uncertainties of the post-pandemic world, let us recommit ourselves to cultivating social connections within our organizations and communities. By recognizing the profound impact of social connection on individual well-being and organizational performance, we can create workplaces where individuals thrive, teams excel, and communities prosper.

 

CARES Model of Leadership for the VUCA World

As a business leader in the 21st century, you face persistent changes in the business environments in which you operate. VUCA refers to this operating environment that is constantly changing in conflicting, dramatic, and relentless ways to produce leadership and organizational challenges. The VUCA world obstructs a leader’s ability to understand, to decide, to communicate, and ultimately to act decisively — which is actually a precondition for effective action in business. The CARES model for leadership development can prepare leaders to handle this VUCA world in a more deliberate, self-assured, and successful manner.

Each letter of the acronym VUCA represents a type of change that we need to identify to cope fully with the environmental unpredictability. Our world is volatile — things change, change quickly, and for reasons beyond our control and cause instability. It is uncertain — we lack full and confirmed information and hence gaining conviction about future outcomes becomes ever more challenging. It is complex — we can never know the interaction of the multiple variables we must consider, let alone how to integrate them effectively. It is ambiguous — the same data can yield multiple and often competing interpretations and lacks precedence making it difficult to move ahead.

Globalization and technology have and continue to fuel the VUCA dynamics through increased innovation, interconnectivity, and digital revolutions, which, in turn, give rise to new and nimble competitors, who operate globally to transform customer expectations radically and thus produce organizational turmoil. The current turbulence has baffled leaders due to its novelty and because the proven approaches of the past have been inadequate in the VUCA-world.

The VUCA world obstructs a leader’s ability to understand, to decide, to communicate, and ultimately to act decisively — which is actually a precondition for effective action in business.

It’s natural for leaders to react differently to this environment. Some have become so distracted by the volatility and constant change that they have stopped planning and are just trying to react to events. Others have become so intimidated by the uncertainty and ambiguity that they don’t act for the fear of making a mistake. Still, others try to do everything they possibly can in this complex environment and don’t end up focusing their efforts in any one direction.

Only a few leaders have been able to fight through all the complexity and uncertainty and chart a way forward for their organizations. They have managed to impose their will on such complex environments and succeeded where others haven’t been able to do so.

In fact, a study by DDI in 2015 had shown that only 18% of leaders were capable of leading in a VUCA world! I haven’t come across any update on this study in recent times but I believe that the percentage may have moved only marginally. If you ask me why I don’t think leadership development in the last few years has really focused on developing the specific competencies to deal with this VUCA world. So, what are the leadership traits or competencies that would prepare them to be successful in a VUCA world? What would help them to thrive where others flounder?

Based on my inter-disciplinary work in leadership development, social and cognitive psychology, coaching, and my own experience as a leader and a coach, I have come up with a model for leadership development that can prepare leaders to handle this VUCA world in a more deliberate, self-assured, and successful manner. I call it the CARES Model of Leadership.

CARES Model of Leadership

CARES is an acronym for C – Credible A – Adaptive R – Resolute E – Emotionally Intelligent S – Sense-making Let’s look at each of these aspects as to why it is important for a leader in the VUCA world.

Credible

Why does a leader need to be credible to be effective in the VUCA world, or actually under any circumstance? As a leader, credibility lets your employees see you as a dependable source of reliable information and for fair, effective decision-making. This information could be on a day-to-day basis or on those occasions when it’s most critical. If you have credibility with your team, you will earn their mutual trust and respect. This would enable you to align them with the goals of the organization. Without credibility, there cannot be a culture of trust and shared goals. So the creditability of the leader is of prime importance, especially in a VUCA world where you need the team to trust you to lead them in the direction that you want them to go.

Adaptive

To welcome change is to be adaptive. Adaptive describes people who are flexible — they don’t lose their cool when plans change quickly and they are always willing to learn new ways to do things. Being adaptive helps you cope with the volatility and uncertainty and sail along in today’s ever-changing world. Clearly being adaptive, flexible, agile, and adaptable is paramount in a VUCA world.

Resolute

Developing and articulating a clear view of the future in today’s increasingly complex environments demands that leaders make judgments about the future — something that entails risk and could be wrong, and there could be significant consequences. Successful leaders are those who can overcome those doubts and act to prepare the organization for success in the future.

I am calling this trait Resolute because it refers to someone who is purposeful, determined, and unwavering. A resolute person has the courage to act with conviction in the face of uncertainty and risk. Be able to manage their emotions and be decisive even with limited information.

Emotionally-intelligent

As we discussed earlier, dealing with uncertainty, volatility and ambiguity can be emotionally challenging for any leader. Unless you are able to manage your emotions on this roller-coaster, you might end up burning out really fast. Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as recognize and influence the emotions of those around you.

Emotionally intelligent leaders are aware of their own emotions and intuitively aware of the emotions of others. This self-awareness also helps them to manage their emotions when dealing with stressful situations. Their social intelligence enables them to lead with empathy and factor in emotions when presenting information, or otherwise engaging with their people. Leaders set the tone of their organization. If you lack emotional intelligence, it could have more far-reaching consequences, resulting in lower employee engagement and a higher turnover rate.

Sense-making

The primary function of any leader is to point the way ahead. This requires vision — the ability to see something significant about the future that isn’t readily apparent to others. Today’s VUCA environments are tough on leaders. The more volatile and the more ambiguous the environment, the harder it is for leaders themselves to come to grips with the situation, let alone articulate a clear way ahead.

Sense-making is the action or process of making sense of or giving meaning to something, especially new developments and experiences. Sense-making is how we make sense of the world so we can act in it. A person with highly developed sense-making can tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty. They have the ability to be able to know enough, even from limited information, to be able to make a measured and appropriate decision. The ability to spot existing or emerging patterns is one of the most if not the most critical skill in decision-making. Hence, it is self-evident that sense-making is a key competency for leaders to succeed in a VUCA world.

As a business leader in the 21st century, you face persistent changes in the business environments in which you operate. VUCA refers to this operating environment that is constantly changing in conflicting, dramatic, and relentless ways to produce leadership and organizational challenges. The VUCA world obstructs a leader’s ability to understand, to decide, to communicate, and ultimately to act decisively — which is actually a precondition for effective action in business. The CARES model for leadership development can prepare leaders to handle this VUCA world in a more deliberate, self-assured, and successful manner.

– Sonali Sinha

How To Stay Relevant in Disruptive Times

Why do you need to stay relevant? What makes it important for business leaders to stay relevant, especially in times of crisis?

Well, the current COVID-19 situation is very telling about the times that we live in. While many businesses have been moving towards becoming more active online and using technology-backed tools to be more agile, this COVID-19 situation has really pushed companies to literally switch how they work within weeks, even days. Businesses that were not able and ready to make this switch have suffered tremendously during this period.

But at the same time, some businesses have made the transition quite smoothly and have been able to keep the business running remotely with employees working from home. This has been possible not only because of their use of technology-backed tools but also because of their ability to rejig their operating model quickly. More importantly, this has been possible because of the leaders at the helm.

In this post, I will share four specific steps for you to take to innovate your way out of this crisis. So, read on!

COVID-19 is a test case for leadership. While the leader’s primary responsibility is to keep the team safe, cohesive, and productive, what should the leader be focused on in the midst of a global disruption like this? I believe that every crisis is an opportunity for innovation. Crises present us with unique conditions that allow innovators to think and move more freely to create rapid, impactful change.

We are seeing this already playing out. Around the world, beermakers and distilleries have shifted production to hand sanitizers. In Italy, a start-up engineering company began quickly using 3D printers to create the valves used in ventilators. Fashion businesses are producing protective gear, gowns, and other supplies for hospitals.

When we look back to this health crisis, I am sure we’ll see the impact it had on innovation in many sectors – be it medical devices, healthcare processes, manufacturing and supply chain innovations, collaboration techniques, education, and so on. Service businesses in particular are likely to see a lot of innovation in how services are created, packaged, and sold.

If you believe the world will go back to being what it was before the pandemic, I’m afraid you are sadly mistaken. Once customers, businesses, and employees are exposed to a certain way of operating, it will be difficult for them to go back and work as if nothing changed. Actions taken during the crisis will shape how companies perform in the long run. Some companies may even continue to pursue opportunities first identified during the crisis.

A very important point to remember is that reputations are built — and lost — during times of crisis. Companies that are demonstrating good citizenship by helping with shortages, or by making major donations, are probably hoping that consumers will remember their actions when the economy returns to normal.

Companies that treat their employees or customers badly during a crisis will face major challenges rebuilding when the storm has passed. Similarly, if leaders in business segments fail to lead the way in terms of innovation and customer service, it is inevitable that other competitors will emerge with better products or platforms.

Eventually, how a business responds to such vast and dislocating change depends on how the leader views the situation – as an opportunity or as a disaster.

So how have you and your company tried to innovate and adapt during this time of crisis? How are you trying to stay relevant in the market? In the next segment, I’m going to talk about some specific approaches that you can adopt to manage this crisis and opportunity for innovation.

So, we were talking about how important it is for leaders and businesses to reinvent and innovate during a crisis. But remember, rapid change is an ongoing process – not just linked to a crisis. Change emanates from changing customer expectation, entry of new players in the market, the introduction of new-age technology, socio-economic factors, new laws, and also changes in executive management or structural transformation of organizations. A crisis only accelerates the pace of change. So these approaches that I am going to share now are relevant, whether you are facing a crisis or not. 

#1 Align around a Purpose

One of the key leadership challenges in day-to-day organizational life is inspiring engagement and generating momentum towards the goals of the organization. This becomes even more important in times of crisis as there is a big jump in the nervous energy present in the workforce. Leaders who can harness this energy and focus it on a clear purpose in resolving the crisis will be able to lead the team to success. They will be able to tap into a wave of new ideas, as individuals feel compelled to share insights, they normally would keep to themselves. They will be able to lead their team from fear to a clear shared goal. After all, courage is defined as the ability to overcome fear for a good purpose. In this way, a crisis has the potential to create the organizational courage to take action in support of a purpose that would be unthinkable in times of calm. Also, know that this constant effort to get the team aligned around a purpose will pay dividends even in normal times.

#2 See Systems From Outside In

When organizations want to find opportunities to innovate, they usually bring in an external consultant to get an outside perspective and fresh ideas. A crisis can actually play that role very well because it brings to the fore the vulnerabilities and problem areas in the organization which may have been ignored earlier in the drive to keep growing the way things are. When a crisis hits, we are compelled to confront the truth about whether our systems work or not. They make us question our disaster recovery plans and business continuity plans. Being able to zoom out and see things for what they are can suddenly throw up opportunities for operating more efficiently or serve our customers better. A crisis is a good opportunity for you as the leader to give a hard look at why you do what you do and whether you do it in the best possible way.

#3 Shake Up the Organization

Organizations, over time, tend to fall into a familiar and predictable way of operating. The very rules that help the organization become more efficient can keep it from evolving and responding rapidly to opportunities thrown up by change. A crisis changes all that. Companies are forced to do away with bureaucratic overheads of review and approval and allow for fresh thinking to be applied quickly to address the challenge. So, how are you responding to this crisis? Are you still trying to stick to the old and familiar ways of taking decisions? If yes, then, believe me, the organization is in for some rough times. What you need right now is for communication to move upwards and downwards and sideways without any barriers of hierarchy because through these communication channels, you get valuable inputs for your strategic decision-making.  

#4 Create a Bias For Action

A crisis brings with it a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. This can lead to a paralysis of action as leaders and team members grapple with their worries about losing out on things that have been important to them thus far. But dealing with a crisis demands movement and change – the pace of ideation, decision making, and implementation all increase dramatically. If a leader gets trapped in focusing on how to protect what they have rather than identifying what opportunities the crisis is throwing up, they will remain stuck in the present – or an analysis paralysis situation. On the other hand, if leaders choose to focus on quickly creating experiments, seeing what happens, and experimenting some more, they will encourage the freedom to test different thinking, to fail fast, to learn, and to move forward – in short, to innovate.

So there you have it – four approaches to help you innovate and stay relevant despite a crisis. These are

#1 Align around a Purpose

#2 See Systems from Outside In

#3 Shake Up the Organization

#4 Create a Bias for Action

Times of crisis present incredible opportunities for learning and growth. It is a time for experimenting with new technologies and approaches to operating your business. We don’t know how long this coronavirus crisis will continue for or how it will impact our economies and businesses but if we use it wisely as an opportunity for innovating, for learning and growing, we will come out on the other side stronger and more agile.

How To Deal With Difficult Employees

Do you find it uncomfortable as a leader to deal with difficult employees? How can you deal with such employees so that they can fit in better with the team and at the same time you are able to create a conducive and productive environment for high performance?

In this video, I share a simple approach for you to deal with this situation in a constructive manner.

leadership-importance

Importance of Leadership in the Workplace

Companies and businesses across the globe are obsessed with leadership! And rightly so – over and over we see organisations soar or fail based solely on the person leading it! Even in large global organisations where thousands of employees work in separate departments with strong department heads – the CEO can be the deciding factor for success.

We know good leadership is key for success, but it still remains so elusive! One of the most common reasons for employees quitting an organisation is to escape a bad manager! Add to this the sad state of leadership development and it seems that good leadership will continue to be hard to come by. Despite increasing amounts of money being spent on leadership development, 71% of the companies don’t think that their leaders can be useful in the future!

And then there are the millennials who are openly questioning the need for leadership altogether! Highly self-regulated and motivated they seem to rebel against the hierarchical leadership structures currently in place.

In this crisis-like scenario, let us relook at the importance of leadership. How does it help in the workplace, and why is it important to keep trying to build good leadership?

Importance of Leadership 

Vision

A single unifying vision is critical to keep everyone heading in one direction. Confusion and chaos are fatal for profitability. While the organisation might be filled with talented people, they can’t all have an equal say in how things must be done. The biggest job of a leader is to take ownership of finding and defining the roadmap for the company.

Direction

Once the vision is fixed and communicated, the next critical step is to give employees an actionable roadmap to get there. This duty also falls to the leader – it is his/her job to make an idea or a dream achievable. 

Motivation and Morale

However, just telling people what they need to do is never enough – they must be encouraged to work hard and take ownership of the idea itself. This is where a good leader truly stands out; he must motivate his employees to work hard and work together to achieve the organisational goals. Conflict management also comes into the picture here, as with a room full of different people a strong voice is needed to keep everyone heading in the same direction.

Values

Values flow top down – to maintain a healthy and positive work environment, a leader must set the right tone. People under him will consciously pick up on his moral and ethical values, and with time, this becomes the value system of the entire organisation. A case in point is Uber – the negative public perception of the company was compounded by the personal reputation of its then CEO, Travis Kalanick, and he was ultimately removed from his position to stem the negative backlash the brand was facing.

The reality is that humans can’t work together without conflict – differing mindsets, personalities, and opinions are bound to clash. Regardless of how talented and capable people are, they do need one person to stem the chaos, give clarity, and make everyone work together – and that person is usually the CEO of the company.

How is your leadership pipeline looking? Do you have a clear strategy for identifying and nurturing the next generation of leaders for your company? If not, then you need to start now!

For more information, click the Request Consultation button above.

team-leader

6 Qualities of a Successful Team Leader

For most professionals in the corporate world, leading a team is their first brush with leadership. But the excitement of promotion usually comes tinged with caution – after all, managing a bunch of people is a daunting task.

Suddenly one remembers the things they disliked most about their various seniors or bosses and mentally vowed not to do the same. However, being nice while getting work out of your juniors requires a delicate balance and some specific skills. So, if you are wondering what you need to do to become an effective team leader, then we have some foundational qualities that can make your leadership stint smoother and more successful –

1. Communication is key

You need to seriously up your communication abilities. This involves not just basics like explaining yourself clearly and being respectful, but also listening actively to your team members and treating them with empathy.

Effective communication allows you to set clear expectations, delegate work without confusion, and also process feedback from your team members. The main job of a leader is to make sure everyone in the team works together to achieve the goal of the team. Making sure you are perceived as being approachable will ensure your team members come to you when they are unhappy, this will help you diffuse potentially explosive situations on time.

2. Being fair and benevolent

You need to be consistent in how you deal with the team. There can be no hint of favouritism or changing values. instead of leaving details vague, it’s important to set expectations and limits right in the beginning. This could be something as small as the timings of the work, expectations with leaves and overtime or even email etiquette, but ensuring everyone’s on the same page keeps things ticking along smoothly. 

3. Leading by example

Inculcating a sense of respect in your team members is critical to succeeding as a leader, and one way to do this is to lead by example. Get your hands dirty, show your commitment, become a role model – this is a foolproof way to make sure you are considered an active and strong leader.

4. Project confidence

People need direction, and the main task of a team leader is to provide it. As a leader, you should know the larger organisational goals as well as your team goals, and you should be able to confidently convey a roadmap for achieving these. You should project self-assurance and also be confident of your team’s abilities.

5. Learn to delegate

One of the most difficult things for most new leaders is to delegate. It often takes time and several tough situations for first-time leaders to start delegating responsibilities properly. It is not possible for one person to do a team’s job, hence work must be divided effectively; fair and logical delegation also makes the team members feel more involved in their team’s success.

6. Evolved administrative skills

When things become complex, and you have to manage not just your own time and workload but also keep track of what others in your team doing, you can’t afford to be disorganised. With so many balls in the air, strong organisational skills are something definitely worth learning.

Leadership is not rocket science, but it does need a combination of several skills and qualities that must be learnt and polished. Experience is, naturally, a great teacher. However, these days, it is not necessary to learn on the job by making costly mistakes. With a structured course, a young leader can get a deeper understanding of how to meet his new challenges and enter the job fully prepared.

We help leaders become more effective and influential. With enhanced abilities, you can approach new challenges and work environments fitted with the right knowledge. For more details, click on the Request Consultation button above.

leadership-development

A Look At Some New Trends In Leadership Development

Never before has the corporate world been more receptive and interested in Leadership Development – in fact, this enhanced interest mirrors (and is largely due to) the increasing difficulty companies have in filling leadership roles.

As baby boomers retire and millennials take over, the long-haul mindset has taken a back seat – according to Brandon Hall by 2020, 48% of the US workforce will be made up of millennials and 91% of these plan to stay at their current job less than 3 years! The story is no different in India.

Succession planning is becoming more and more complicated as you not only have to find someone capable but also ensure they stick around long enough to lead!

This massive cultural change is reflected beyond just retention rates – with digital technology the workplace has become flatter and more collaborative – the old ways of siloed working are over! But digital transformation has also made the workplace more hectic and fast-paced – as things change quickly, employees are expected to react faster and think on their feet independently.

These scenarios have thrown up new and different challenges for the leadership.

We look at some new trends in Leadership Development that have kept abreast of these fresh challenges:

1. Flatter organisations require leaders who empower rather than control

Across industries, digital technologies and accelerating globalisation is pushing companies to reorganise themselves into flatter structures where decision making is more decentralised and flexible.

Leaders with ironclad control of their departments are being replaced with smaller, agile teams. In this scenario, it is important to develop a leadership style that inspires and motivates employees to take charge.

The new leaders are not required to do it all; rather they must help and encourage their employees to do it on their own. Leadership programmes are also now moving their focus to make leaders more comfortable with change and with working with decentralised teams.

2. Push for empathetic and engaging leadership styles

As millennials rise beyond entry-level positions, the need for a more value-driven leadership style to keep them engaged is felt across organisations.

The new generation values innovation and their individual growth and to keep them motivated and connected with the organisation’s values. There is a real need to create environments that encourage their personal growth and for team leaders to genuinely listen and relate to their employees.

Gone are the days of passing out commands and expecting people to follow blindly. Leadership development programmes are now increasingly offering conflict management and leadership empathy exercises to help leaders keep their teams happy and productive.

The focus has shifted from being a leader who is an expert to a leader who gathers experts and motivates them to deliver their best.

3. Providing flexible and easy-to-access learning for leaders

Leadership development sessions have been traditionally classroom based. As technology settles even more deeply in our daily lives, the new crop of millennial leaders is looking for more!

A blended approach to learning is now being explored for leadership sessions as well -making sure that there is flexibility in terms of locations and time which can make it easier for participants across geographies and time zones to get the full benefit of the training.

Going ahead L&D, on the whole, is moving towards experiential learning where self-directed learning resources give some of the responsibility of pulling the benefits of the training to the participants themselves.

Conclusion

According to a study by Deloitte, 56% of organizations are not ready to meet their leadership needs, and only 7% of the companies surveyed have accelerated leadership programs for millennials.

Seeing how millennials will take the reins in a decade, there is an urgent need to ensure that leadership development is offered at all levels of the organisations AND that this training caters to the upcoming challenges the next generation of leaders will face.

Is your organisation looking to engage millennial employees more effectively? If yes, then let us tell you that the first step is to ensure that your leadership understands what motivates them and knows how to engage them.

To know more click on the Request Consultation button above.