Leadership in Times of Change
For years, Vince Molinaro [Global Managing Director of the Leadership Transformation Practice with Lee Hecht Harrison] and I have been following each other on social media. I have always enjoyed his leadership insights and his "Gut Check" blog where he challenges our thinking as leaders: "Are you building a truly accountable team?", "Are you robbing your future?", "Do you have a global mindset?", "Do you have the guts to laugh at yourself?", just to list a few.
Many times, I think I recognize my own leadership style in the questions he poses or traits he describes. Often, however, they challenge my own thinking, interpretation, and implementation of my own leadership style.
Last week, I had the chance to meet Vince for the first time in person. He was invited to speak at our annual leadership meeting where he connected ‘accountability’ and ‘leadership’ as essential to thriving organizations in times of change.
Like every other organization, we too are going through our own transformation. The need for our change is strongly influenced by outside and inside factors such as economic shifts and the impact it’s having on economies and thus future employment; the changing demand of employers as they are transforming themselves; digitization; the currency of our own infrastructure and methods; the evolving demographics and increasing expectations of our future students; increasing cost of operation; changes in government; evolving funding models; etc.
Shepherding an organization with well established processes (and habits) and 1,000s of faculty and staff, serving more than 30,000 students that rely on us for getting a quality education and experience that prepares them for an ambiguous future, is not a simple thing. Not for us, our sector, nor anybody else.
For years, I have written and spoken about the transformation that is eminent in our city building (smart cities) and real estate (smart buildings) industries. I often talked about “digital transformation” and the technological tools that both force us toward, and aid us through, business transformation. I often talked about some new business models or new approaches that could set an organization or industry up for success in these complex times.
Not enough, however, I focused on the role of ‘leadership’ that is required to guide an industry, organization, or practice through the transition and continuous change.
Without strong leadership (inspirational, transparent, humble, collaborative, strategic, visionary, integrity, proactive, confident, …accountable, etc—all traits that Vince and our team identified during a short exercise during his session with us last week) and a strong leadership culture (empowerment, enablement, inclusive, team players, etc) all the benefits of any process change or implementation of a technical advancement may be short-lived and not have the sustainable impact the organization needs.
As we see processes, people (training and development), and enabling technologies evolve in complex times of change, so too must leadership evolve if we truly want to enable sustainable change.
In his book The Leadership Contract, Vince talks about the importance of leadership and stresses us to consider it exactly that… a ‘contract’.
In his book he suggests, that in order to be an accountable leader we need to agree to the fine print of being a leader: it is a decision you make—and not just another task for you to manage on the side of your desk. It is an obligation—to yourself, your team, your customers, your organization, and your community. It is hard work—calling for ‘personal resolve and tenacity to rise above the daily pressures and lead your organization into the future’. It is a community—recognize that you don’t need to have all the answers or be a ‘lone hero’, leadership is a team effort at every level in the organization.
As a leader I am very aware that there is always room to improve and learn. As I commit to embracing this myself, I hope that I also can instil this on my own teams, now and in the future. I hope that I can be part of creating lasting cultures of creativity, innovation, collaboration and teamwork, in times of ambiguity, complexity, and constant change.
For inspiration and insights, I encourage you to check out www.theleadershipcontract.com and explore how you yourself too can become an more effective leader. What are some of your aspirations, best practices, and lessons learned?