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What critical leadership skills do you need for success in 2022?

The demands on leaders continue to evolve as we adjust to the ongoing impact of the global virus pandemic.

Early in 2020 business leaders moved into crisis mode to keep their businesses running and their people safe. For many, it was a hard road to travel that created high levels of anxiety and fatigue.

Two years on, the challenges continue as we reorient ourselves to new ways of working.

So, what does it mean for you and your organisation?

First, the essence of great leadership hasn’t changed. Integrity, judgment, courage, strategic thinking, and the ability to deliver results are still crucially important.

However, a new set of skills has become significant in the face of ongoing disruption. A more collaborative, engaging, and agile approach is called for to guide a business forward and empower individuals and teams.

Critical elements of this approach include:

  • Maintaining personal flexibility to meet the needs of the moment
  • Seeking out views and ideas from internal and external sources, and
  • Inspiring commitment and energy from others to shared goals.

A useful model to illustrate the practical implications of what is required has emerged from research at IMD Business School.

It was found that leaders who were highly effective in transforming their organisations in the face of business disruption demonstrated agility through four differentiating competencies.

Humility

Humility is evident when leaders recognise that knowing what you don’t know can be as valuable as knowing what you do. Is this acknowledged as a leadership requirement in your business? If not, it’s time to think about what it means and why it matters.

Humble leaders recognise that one person cannot know everything needed to make critical decisions, so they seek and input from diverse sources. They see value in assembling the right team for better decision making. Their approach conveys respect for people and builds trust.

Reflection question: Does your level of expertise sometimes prevent you from learning and growing?

Adaptability

The ability to adapt is essential in complex and changing environments. However, focused adaptability based on gathering new information is a significant component of agile leadership.

Agile leaders adapt their behaviour in the short-term based on their ability to make evidence-based decisions. They are prepared to change their minds if new data comes to light, and they see this as a strength rather than a weakness.

Reflection question: When did you last change your behaviour in response to the dynamics of those around you? Was it comfortable to do?

Visionary

It has always been important for a leader to have a clear vision for the future of their organisation. However, in times of rapid change, it’s essential to discern which opportunities to pursue to support the longer-term direction of the business.

Visionary leaders have a well-defined idea of where their organisation needs to go, even if they don’t know precisely how they will get there. They know that sharing their vision is a key to motivating others to action and commitment to purpose.

Reflection question: Do you have a game plan for creating and communicating your vision? 

Engaged

Articulating a clear vision for the future and making appropriate course corrections along the way is fundamental. Communication of these factors through constant interaction with stakeholders is vital.

Agile Leaders continually engage with others, both inside and outside their organisation. They are on the lookout for new information that could reveal opportunities and threats to the business. They are curious and have a strong desire to explore, discover, learn, and discuss possibilities with others.

Reflection question: Would you benefit from putting less effort into convincing others and more into inviting their ideas?

Summary

These four competencies define the brand of agile leadership that is necessary for today and our short-term future. Look out for our next post, in which we describe how they inform the business-focused practices of highly effective leaders.

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