Which of the contemporary leadership challenges bugged you today?
How many “TGIF” posts do you see on your social media feed on Fridays?
“It’s pretty tough right now. From meeting to meeting all week.”
“We really don’t understand what’s going on, we need to communicate better.”
It seems obvious to me that work is not working as it should, and that is independent of the context, the sector, and the hierarchical position of the customers I meet. I believe the leaders in any organisation have key roles to play in creating a sustainable working climate. To do so, they need to face (at least) five contemporary leadership challenges.
Dopamine-junkies as we humans are, our curiosity gets us to respond to impulses and stimuli that we do not really have time for, while our overburdened brain is not able to take in all the information or requests we face every day. Mindfulness practice is on the rise, because we need to relearn the ability to keep our minds calm and focused in the midst of everything going on around us. Many unfocused minds together do not innovate, they stress each other out.
Leading connections and trust
Most organisations we meet are striving towards a more self-organised, less hierarchical culture. This aim is absolutely worth striving for, but with less organisational structure, more work across silos, and the utilising of virtual teams means that higher demands are put on how human beings interact. A key prerequisite for high-quality interaction is trust, and a feeling of connection. These demand investments in time to get to know each other, and to start forming the requisite level of trust.
Purpose-hunting has become a key motivational driver, as more basic needs are increasingly met at a young age these days. Meaning has also been found to be one of the key determinants of happiness. What makes work feel meaningful? The answers may include: work that has a sense of impact, work on a large scale (making the world a better place), work on a personal level (my work has a positive impact), or work on an interpersonal level (my work helps someone else).
In the information-overloaded world, a leader’s task as communicator becomes even more important than before. Skills needed include the ability to tell stories that break through the clutter and actually reach the audience, engage people and drive behaviour. Furthermore, the ability to set clear goals, to be understood, and the ability to engage in true dialogue is also increasingly important.
Leading time, energy and well-being
Most of our management systems have been built on the assumption that the scarcest resources are the financial ones. In the modern era, the scarcest resource is often peoples’ time and energy. We still treat both rather sloppily. Anyone can arrange meetings, and even if we track how time is spent, we are usually quite lazy in the decision-making, in terms of who can use time for what – even when it concerns our own time.
If these challenges seem relevant to you, here are a few questions you may want to ask yourself:
- How often do I stop to reflect on where my own attention is going?
- In meetings with my team, are we all fully present and focused, or are we multitasking?
- Do people trust me, and do they trust each other? Do we talk openly about both victories and challenges we face?
- Do people know the big picture and feel that work is meaningful?
- Have I identified my key messages to my team, and have I told them in a way that inspires?
- Do people leave my meetings feeling more energised than when they entered the room?